Pride Month began in Susanville with anti-gay graffiti painted on the walls of Lassen Family Services on Riverside Drive, one wall beneath a rainbow Pride flag. The graffiti message equated two colors of the rainbow flag with pedophilia. The Susanville Police Department classifies the vandalism as a hate crime that will not be tolerated in our community.
Pride Month recognizes the LGBTQ+ community’s efforts for recognition and equality and commemorates the Stonewall riots that followed a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village in New York City, in 1969.
A similar event occurred last June at LFS when a Pride flag was stolen along with an American flag and a California state flag. The SPD said this theft did not satisfy the legal elements of a hate crime because all three flags were stolen.
LFS did not return Lassen News’ call requesting comment, and the organization’s door was locked Friday afternoon, but according to a social media post, “We are saddened and disgusted by the actions of the hateful. In response to a man defacing our office and spreading lies, we are asking anyone who is interested to join us at 9 a.m. Monday, June 5 to repaint the building. Thank you so much to all those that have already reached out to show support.”
Rural Pride Network of Lassen County Organizer Jacob Hibbitts said, “I am shocked, I am disgusted and I am not surprised … I don’t understand how this hate bubbles up into our community … As a board member of the Pride Network, this is exactly why we need to make sure that this community is a safe place, that our folks are educated on the issues, and that they are understanding of who we are as a community. We’re going to continue to do the work and make sure this community is a safer place.”
Police investigate a hate crime
According to a statement from the SPD, officers responded to LFS at 6 a.m. Friday, June 2, and officers “observed fresh spray paint on two of the main walls of the building depicting hateful statements. The anticipated cost to paint over the graffiti may constitute a felony vandalism charge.”
According to the statement, “The statement spray painted on the building is being investigated as a potential violation of 422.6 of the Penal Code; No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall knowingly deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of any other person for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to the other person by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States, in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.”
According to the statement, “The Susanville Police Department takes hate crimes very seriously. Crimes motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability will not be tolerated in our community. We will vigorously investigate and bring any individuals or groups responsible for hate crimes to justice.”
While the cost to repair the spray paint vandalism may be a crime that could be charged as a felony, a violation of California Penal Code section 422.55 is only a misdemeanor.
Anyone with information that would assist this ongoing investigation is encouraged to call the SPD at 257-5605.