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'We'll raise it every day if we have to': Twice vandalized, Pride flag rises again in small Alberta town

Police in a southern Alberta community are treating the vandalism of a Pride flag as an act of arson as the town held a ceremony to raise a replacement flag on Monday.

Taber hoisted the symbol of LGBT rights for the 1st time this year, but not without problems

A crowd gathered to watch the Pride flag being raised in the small Alberta town of Taber for the third time on Monday, after vandals destroyed the first two flags. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Police in a southern Alberta community are treating the vandalism of a Pride flag as an act of arson as the town held a ceremony to raise a replacement flag on Monday.

Taber hoisted the symbol of LGBT rights for the first time this year and it has not gone well. Six days after it was raised on June 12, vandals covered security cameras in Confederation Park, shredded the flag and tied the pieces to tree branches. 

The Town of Taber said it took steps to prevent further vandalism by greasing the pole so that no one could remove the flag a second time. 

However, on the morning of June 24, Taber police say someone applied an accelerant to the pole and lit it on fire. 

​"Once lit, the pole acted as a wick and caught the flag on fire, a portion of the flag melted and fell to the ground," said Taber police in a news release.

Lethbridge, about 50 kilometres to the west of Taber, also saw vandals strike its symbols of Pride. Crosswalks painted in the colours of the transgender flag and the Pride flag were defaced in that city — the rainbow crosswalk twice. 

Members of Lethbridge Pride donated one of their flags to the Taber Equality Alliance Society and it was raised on Monday night. 

'It hurts'

Jane Deering, a Taber resident of 18 years and the mother of two trans individuals, was at the flag ceremony and said not only is there support, but there's new support from people she hasn't seen at an event like this. 

"Discouraging to think somebody would do something like that, but encouraging to see the support that's coming out," she said of the week's events. 

Smaller Pride flags, left photo, were placed at the bottom of the flagpole in Confederation Park in Taber, Alta., after a Pride flag flying there was burned on June 24, right photo. (Sheldon Frolic)

She's was defiant that those who struck at the symbols would not win out, vowing to be there every day to raise a new flag if need be.  

"As soon as my children came out, I'm fighting for them and standing up for the others, too," she said. "It hurts. You hurt my children, you hurt me."

That sense of community, and of defiance, was echoed by Jayce Wilson, a trans woman who moved to Taber from Calgary about 12 years ago. 

"I felt an awful lot of love and support and unity and community. They were here because they wanted to be here. They were here because they wanted to support us and show that they cared and that they want to see the Pride flag go up again," she said.

"We'll raise it every day if we have to."

'Actions of a few'

The Town of Taber issued a statement saying "actions of a few people does not represent the community of Taber as a whole" and promised the flag will continue to fly until June 30.

The chief of police echoed the town's sentiments. 

"This act of arson is a public safety concern, and is not taken lightly by the Taber police," said Chief Graham Abela in a news release. "This type of activity is not in keeping with the values of the community and we denounce this crime."

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