Vandalism is all too common. The senseless destruction deprives the owners (often the public) of valuable property and assaults their sense of peace and security.
When vandalism is targeted at people who are already discriminated against or marginalized by society, the crime is much worse. It is hateful; it is an attack on the entire community's peace and security.
"Hateful" is the word for the slashing of two banners publicizing the 406 Pride events scheduled for Saturday in Billings. A third 406 Pride banner disappeared, apparently stolen Monday night or early Tuesday when the other banners were cut up. The vandalized banners were displayed on the same fences as other banners, but only the 406 Pride banners were vandalized.
The damaged banners, which cost about $400, were taped together Tuesday by Charlene Sleeper, who was moved to action. "I'm not going to sit here and tolerate it anymore," Sleeper told The Gazette's Juliana Sukut.
Shauna Goubeaux, president of 406 Pride, rightly worried that the vandalism would make LGBTQ citizens fearful and urged those who might be affected to visit the 406 Pride Resource Center at Billings First Congregational Church.
"Acts of hate make it even scarier to go to events like Pride and be out," Goubeaux told Sukut.
The vandal or vandals generated more publicity for the 406 Pride events. While the tattered and missing banners are being replaced, let's turn this hateful criminal activity into a big welcome for our LGBTQ neighbors and visitors.
One year ago, the first 406 Pride Parade drew a crowd to its colorful parade and families to the North Park festival.
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In June 2017, Billings welcomed Big Sky Pride Weekend by cheering a rainbow-hued parade downtown. Churches, health, education, sports and community organizations participated in the parade to show their support for including people of all sexual identities.
Five years ago, the Billings City Council did what no other Montana city had done: It rejected an ordinance aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ people to be free from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Unfortunately, Billings has a reputation for being a homophobic place. That puts additional responsibility on citizens of goodwill to counteract the perception. With no local or state law against discrimination, it's up to each one of us to demonstrate the welcome we would want for ourselves by standing up for the LGBTQ citizens. Those who believe in the Christian commandment to "love your neighbor" should know that it covers everyone — not just heterosexuals.
Billings citizens cannot ignore the vandal's affront to the peace and security of our LGBTQ neighbors. Our city will only thrive if it welcomes diversity, supports dignity for all, respects individual privacy and truly embraces LGBTQ people as neighbors, coworkers, voters and fellow citizens.
In response to a report filed by local 406 Pride organizers, the Billings Police Department issued a press release that ended: "These hateful activities have no place in our community."
Well said, BPD. If you agree, show your community pride by attending the festivities Saturday.
- There's a pre-parade brunch at Bin 119 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- The downtown parade is set for 2-2:30 p.m.
- Then an all-ages festival starts in North Park with food trucks, bouncy houses for kids, crafts and displays from ZooMontana and Wise Wonders Children's Museum.
- A concert in the park starts at 6 p.m. and a performance by Jaymes Mansfield of Ru Paul's Drag Race will be at 7 p.m.
Help ensure that love overcomes hate in Billings.