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Vandalism of Pride mural prompts Spokane officials to condemn hate at press conference

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(The Center Square) – Spokane Police are investigating an incident in which video surveillance shows suspects dumping flammable liquid on an LGBTQ+ mural painted on the road before setting it aflame.

The Spokane Fire Department responded to a call around 1:15 a.m. on Thursday at the intersection of Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. Once on the scene, the department notified the police, and the agencies recovered two buckets of “flammable material,” according to a press release.

The criminal act transpired just over two weeks from the start of Pride Month.

Police are investigating the incident as arson but noted under recent amendments to state law, damage like this to publicly owned property will be eligible to be prosecuted as a hate crime in the future starting next month, according to the release.

“I am deeply troubled by the repeated defacement of Spokane’s Pride flag mural on Spokane Falls Boulevard and Howard Street. This is not only an act of vandalism, but a hate-fueled act that goes against our values of equality, acceptance, and celebration of diversity,” Mayor Lisa Brown said in a statement. “I unequivocally denounce such behavior and look forward to those responsible being brought to justice. To the LGBTQ+ community, please know that I stand in solidarity with you against all forms of discrimination and prejudice.”

Spokane has multiple LGBTQ+ pride murals painted across roadways throughout the city, three of which were defaced last October, with some vandalized during the summer prior as well, according to reporting from Spokane’s KXLY.

City Council President Betsy Wilkerson held a press conference on Friday alongside Councilmembers Zack Zappone and Paul Dillon to condemn the recent vandalism.

Zappone said that while the amendments, as mentioned earlier, take effect on June 6, the city is considering how to charge whoever is caught with the total weight of the crime. He said it’s crucial that everyone in Spokane feels welcome and that there is no space for hate.

Dillon, chair of the council’s Public Safety & Community Health Committee, said Thursday’s events reminded residents of the uptick in hate crimes, not only in Spokane but around the region.

He said these were not neighborhood kids, claiming the event was a “coordinated attack.” Dillon lives near another mural that’s been previously defaced and said pride flags are regularly stolen in the area.

“Our community prides itself on safety and inclusion, and for that very reason, we are seeing this targeting,” he said.

Wilkerson pointed out that the mural was only recently painted and that the perpetrators caused significant damage, which will, in turn, cost considerable time and resources to repair. She apologized on behalf of the city and to residents in pain, stating that the city needs to move forward, not backward.

“If you know something about what happened, please contact the police department,” she said. “Do not be complicit in these acts and these hate crimes. It’s unsafe, it’s demeaning, and most importantly, it’s a crime.”

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