PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Officials are investigating a bias crime after the residents of a Newberg, Oregon, home reported their rainbow American flag was burned.
Authorities said they received a report that a Pride flag was set on fire in front of a family’s home. The flag was on a pole that was attached to the home when it was torched, according to the Newberg-Dundee Police Department.
The homeowner, who asked to remain anonymous for safety, shared surveillance video with Nexstar’s KOIN which appeared to show a masked man setting fire to the flag before doing a Nazi salute.
Police said that the residents had a Pride flag stolen previously, too.
KOIN spoke with Stephen Paolini of the Anti-Defamation League, who noted that these kinds of acts are on the rise.
“Yesterday morning, early in the morning, we were made aware of an incident of what appears to be a neo-Nazi setting on fire a Pride flag in front of somebody’s home in an apparent hate crime incident. We got several reports from community members who feel unsafe, who feel, unfortunately, that this is part of a broader trend in their community,” said Paolini. “From flyer distributions and postering to flag demonstrations, and now an escalation … this is a really concerning trend in the Newberg area.”
This incident comes more than a month after a county judge ruled the Newberg School District’s ban on certain types of signage, including Black Lives Matter signs and LGBTQ+ Pride flags, was unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed amid ongoing controversy between school board members regarding an LGBTQ+ Pride flag that was hung in the window of an elementary school classroom.
Popularized in the 1970s by politician and advocate Harvey Milk, the Pride flag is notable for its rainbow stripes, which symbolize various sections of the LGBTQ+ and/or queer community. While the flags are often flown during Pride Month each year (June), they are also flown year-round to symbolize courage, perseverance and allyship. Non-queer allies can also choose to fly the flags to let people know their homes/offices/classrooms are safe spaces to be themselves.
Hate on the rise
The Anti-Defamation League said nationally, hate incidents — including antisemitic incidents — are on the rise. The ADL actually recorded the highest-level of antisemitic incidents ever in 2021 — and noted that the approaching midterm election is only making matters worse.
“As we get closer to elections, and conspiracy theories reach a fever pitch, we certainly see an increase in violence, and vandalism and harassment against … marginalized communities,” Paolini explained.
There have also been recent cases of people using antisemitic rhetoric, including rapper Ye’s comments, which can embolden people.
The Anti-Defamation League points out that most people in the community don’t support these incidents and many are expressing concern. They also ask community members to report any hate crimes they see. Anyone with information regarding the flag-burning incident is urged to call NDPD at (503) 538-8321.