Westfield Police seeking suspects in Pride flag vandalism case

Police said that they believe the two people may be responsible for multiple thefts and vandalism motivated by bias.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 10:20 PM EDT
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WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Westfield Police are asking for your help identifying two people who were caught on video taking Pride flags from a house.

Now, residents are coming forward, saying the same has happened in their yards. We spoke with one woman who had an inclusivity sign stolen from her yard, and she is hoping people take this seriously.

“It’s infuriating, quite frankly, that our kids don’t feel safe in their own home,” said Emily Pierce of Westfield.

Concerned residents took to Facebook in Westfield after several people had Pride flags stolen from their yard. Pierce told Western Mass News that in June, her kids bought an inclusivity sign at a Pride event and they put it in their yard.

“About two weeks ago, we were walking, because we walk our dogs out here every day, and we noticed that it was over here in our neighbors yard, so we picked it up and we put it back in our yard,” she said, “and then the next day, we came back out and it was gone completely and someone had ripped it off of the metal posts that are in there.”

The act caused her and her family to feel uneasy.

“Considering that it’s clearly focused towards the LGBTQ+ community, it’s threatening,” Pierce said. “We have children who identify as part of that community, and going to Pride events and getting them to be able to represent themselves on their own property and having people take those, is threatening and it’s scary for them. It’s bad enough that kids have to deal with this stuff at school, and having to deal with it at their own home is terrible.”

On Tuesday, the Westfield Police Department posted a home surveillance video on social media. You can see one person walking up to a house, taking two flags off a bracket, grabbing a pumpkin off the front step, throwing it on the ground, and running off with the flags. This all happened while another person stood in the background. Police believe that person may have been taking a video.

Police said in part, quote:

“In addition to what is shown in the video, we believe that they may be responsible for multiple thefts and vandalisms motivated by bias against the residents of this same house.”

“I’m proud of the fact that the police department did recognize it as a bias-focused attack because I think that’s really important,” Pierce said.

Now, she is hoping the community will come together to raise awareness.

“I don’t think people realize how isolating it is to be a part of that community, especially as a young person, and the violence that they face every single day, so I hope that people, even the people that minimize it, if they could do a small amount to educate themselves,” Pierce said.

We reached out to City Councilor Kristen Mello for her reaction to the vandalism. She told us in part that the hostile words and actions against LGBTQIA+ community members, quote:

“...often creates an atmosphere... a level of discomfort, a loss of safety, and the feeling of being unwelcome in your own hometown. Westfield residents know that it’s up to each one of us to help shape the community we create here. They know we will accomplish more together with love than with hate.”

Westfield Police ask that anyone with information to contact their department.