“Our pride flags have been ripped off before, but this active manifestation of hatred is unacceptable and malicious,” the ministry wrote in a Facebook post.
“As always, we strive to make Wesley a safe and meaningful place for everyone,” the center wrote. “This hate crime goes against everything we believe in, and we want our LGBTQ + community to know that we will always love, support and embrace you with open arms.”
Wesley’s Minister Bret Gresham told CNN this was the third time the flags have been taken in recent weeks. Gresham said they were not sure if it was the same person or people, but the Blacksburg Police Department and the university were very helpful in trying to catch the vandals.
“We want to be a community filled with grace so that people feel secure and supported in faith, questions or doubts, whatever they are,” said Gresham.
The ministry has asked anyone with information to contact the Blacksburg Police Department. Gresham said he hopes police can find out who is doing this for peace of mind and to deter anyone from doing it again.
CNN has contacted the Blacksburg Police Department for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
“Yet incidents like this remind us that the journey to equity and social justice – whether in our community or in others across the country – will be long and difficult,” the statement said. “The strong and swift reaction of our community to this incident gives me confidence in the culture we are building and in our shared commitment to achieving our vision.”
Wesley is not the only organization to have been the victim of this kind of vandalism. Withdrawal of the flag is an ongoing problem, Gresham said.
“It’s crazy like a simple gesture to take a flag, and people don’t always realize the repercussions or the assumptions or the effect that it might have on other marginalized or minority groups,” Susan Kurtz, executive director of Hillel at Virginia Tech, WSLS said.