An LGBTQ community center in Gainesville, Florida, had its office broken into, which resulted in shattered glass, including one on a door. The members of the center are “heartbroken” over the incident. According to WCJB, they said that the police are investigating this incident as a possible hate crime because of the contents of the letter that was left behind.
“It looked like they used rocks to break the windows,” vice president James Brown of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida told WCJB. “We don’t know for sure. The police are investigating. That’s going to be their job to figure out. The reason it’s being investigated as a hate crime is because of the notes that were left.”
Reports say that members have decided not to talk about the information in these notes because of the investigation.
Debbie Lewis, who is on the board, said that a neighboring real estate company called them on Saturday morning to tell them that their building had been damaged.
“She told me that she was just informed by somebody that came to her office that the pride center had been vandalized and that the windows were all smashed,” Lewis told the outlet.
“Earlier today, and in the pit of my stomach right now, it’s heartbreaking to see a building that we pour so much love and energy into being vandalized by people that were obviously targeting us because of the work we do here,” Brown said.
“When I came here and saw everything, it was hard,” Lewis said. “I got very emotional because it was hard to see.”
Locals assisted in boarding up the windows. Glass and rocks were reportedly swept up by people.
“When something like this happens, you find out who your friends are, and we got some great people who showed up today,” Lewis told WCJB.
“Our Pride Center is a place where our community can come and be safe and feel welcomed,” Brown told the Sun. “Seeing the center vandalized in this way breaks my heart. This incident is exactly the reason why our community needs safe spaces. Your board at this Pride Center will keep working hard and pouring our love into this community and on making this a safe space again.”
“We are heartbroken but undeterred,” organization president Tamara Perry-Lunardo told the outlet. “The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida remains committed to being a safe place, and this display of hatred has only strengthened our resolve to continue to show up with love for our beautiful LGBTQ+ community. We’re here, we’re queer—loud and proud.”
Mary Alford, who was running for County Commission, said that several already-elected Republican politicians were to blame for anti-LGBTQ comments.
“Later I will be angry about this vicious hate crime, but right now I’m incredibly sad for every vulnerable person in my community,” she said. “This does not represent the values of our community, and we can’t be defined or stopped by the hate-filled actions of ignorant people.”