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Anti-LGBTQ+ vandals continue to target Spokane

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Spokane, Washington, has been facing a string of escalating anti-LGBTQ+ vandalism attacks. In October alone, the Odyssey Youth Center, an organization that provides resources and community to Queer and Trans youth, has been vandalized four times.

Photo courtesy of Odyssey Youth  

The incidents have included slurs and hate speech spray-painted on building signs and windows. Other acts have included defacing LGBTQ+ murals and spray-painting a rainbow sidewalk in the South Hill neighborhood; the latter has also been the victim of pickup trucks, which have left black skid marks over the already vandalized rainbow. Residents of the neighborhood also reported having Pride flags stolen or slashed, and pumpkins smashed.

"The fact that this has happened, now three nights in a row, and the fact that this happened a month after the initial vandalism as well, this is a pattern, this is a repeat, which is very intimidating, to say the least, and terrifying to say the most," Odyssey Youth Movement executive director Ian Sullivan told local news outlet KHQ on Monday, October 9.

Short-lived camaraderie
Following a third incident at the Odyssey Youth Center, members of the Spokane community came out on Wednesday, October 11, for an act of unity. Neighbors worked to clean up the crosswalk and held a Pride event sponsored by a local bookstore, Wishing Tree Books. Those who showed up wore rainbow colors and signed cards to send to members of Odyssey to show their support.

The love was short-lived, however. That night, the vandals struck again.

People dressed in all black donned ski masks as they egged Wishing Tree Books, which sells LGBTQ+ reading material for children. The vandals also egged and tagged Odyssey Youth Center and the rainbow sidewalk again, and attempted to paint over a Pride mural in Riverfront Park.

Also, Ring doorbell footage from Spokane City Councilmember Paul Dillon showed one masked assailant come onto his property and snag his Pride flag. Dillon has had four Pride flags stolen in recent months and often sees his campaign signs slashed.

"It's part of a larger concern [about] a coordinated attack on the neighborhood and specifically targeting the LGBTQ+ community," Dillon told the local Spokesman-Review newspaper. "It's just hard to not feel like the neighborhood is under attack right now."

The vandals have targeted the Perry District, one of Spokane's most diverse neighborhoods, located on the south side of the city. "I think that the Perry District is a beautiful place," Dillon said. "This is our home, and we are not backing down. We are here to support LGBTQ+ communities, businesses, [and] organizations, and our neighbors, and we are going to rally together to make this the safest, most inclusive neighborhood that we can, and [we] will not be pushed into the darkness."

Spokane police are investigating the vandalism incidents but said that at this time, they are not considering them a hate crime.

Photo courtesy of Odyssey Youth  

City Council addresses attacks
On Monday, October 16, the Spokane City Council addressed the uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ harassment. "There appears to be a rise in overt attacks and bigotry [against] the LGBTQ community, which is a trend that we're seeing nationally," Councilmember Zack Zappone said at the meeting. Zappone is one of two members of the Spokane City Council who identify as LGBTQ+.

The council voted on a resolution Monday to condemn the surge in hatred against the Queer and Trans community. The resolution included changing the city's lobbying agenda to ask the state legislature to institute a state hate crime hotline and to make hate crimes on public property a felony.

"I think this resolution shows that the City Council is against those sorts of acts of hatred and bigotry," Zappone said.

Pushback from community
Though the resolution was mostly symbolic and initiated no immediate policy changes, it was still contested. Councilmember Jonathan Bingle voiced concern for the resolution's brief mention of hate speech, saying, "This would change my vote on this if you consider it to be hate speech to say that, for example, a man is a man and a woman is a woman." Bingle ultimately voted in support of the resolution.

The District 1 councilmember wasn't the only one with reservations about the resolution. Community members who showed up at the meeting voiced concern. Some argued that the council had previously targeted Christians when they denounced Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward's participation in a Christian nationalist event. Others argued that their First Amendment rights included the religious freedom to disapprove of the LGBTQ+ community.