Skowhegan community members rallied in support of a vintage boutique where a Progress Pride flag was vandalized over the weekend.
On Saturday morning, Jessica Stetson was opening her store, Old Soul Collective, when she noticed the Progress Pride flag that hung outside — along with the from which pole it hung — was missing.
Frustrated, Stetson took to Facebook.
“I don’t know why you did it, I don’t know what’s in your heart to make you feel so angrily towards an entity that in no way is harming you. I would have rather invited you in my doors with open arms,” she wrote in a post to the unknown vandal.
In the post, Stetson, a Fairfield native, emphasized that she doesn’t share her political views often on social media, but she felt the need to because “you not only ripped the flag off of the building but you ripped a beacon of hope and happiness off of the streets of downtown Skowhegan.”
She made a report to the police, and an officer found the broken flagpole discarded behind the building, the Waterville Morning Sentinel reported.
The vintage boutique owner made an offer to the vandal: Come forward, and she won’t press charges or hold a grudge. All she asked is for a replacement flag from a local business. Stetson also offered a $50 reward for the return of the flag, which only cost her $7.99.
“That flag is worth more to me than the money I paid for it,” she wrote. “It stands for more than what you think it does.”
Word of the theft soon spread through the 8,000-person community, and locals took matters into their own hands.
About an hour after Stetson posted the Facebook message, Margaret O’Connell, a Norridgewock resident and founding member of the LGBTQ Somerset Social, brought a replacement flag to Old Soul Collective, according to the newspaper.
O’Connell and her wife keep replacement flags because “this has happened before within the county,” she told the Morning Sentinel.
Town Manager Christine Almand asked her daughter, who is an intern at EqualityMaine, if she could see whether flag donations to the vintage boutique were possible. On Monday, Almand brought several donated flags to Stetson.
“Apparently a lot of other folks were also trying to find ways to help the situation,” Almand told the Morning Sentinel.
The vandalism comes amid Pride Month, celebrated every June, which honors the anniversary of 1969 Stonewall uprising in Manhattan, a critical turning point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
Along with rainbow colors for the LGBTQ community, the Progress Pride flag embraces has black, brown, pink, light blue and white stripes to signify the plight of marginalized communities of color, those living with HIV/AIDS and the transgender community.