By Greg Price
A rash of crime directed towards the gay and transgendered community in southern Alberta has made its way to Taber.
Early Thursday morning, a City of Lethbridge employee initially reported to police that tar and manure had been spread on the rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 6th Street South. The crosswalks were painted just one week previous by city crews and funded by Lethbridge Pride Fest. That was the second incident of vandalism.
Now, a mere week after a Gay Pride Flag was raised near the administration building in Taber as part of the first ever Taber Pride: Small Town, Big Hearts celebration at Confederation Park, that flag has been stolen sometime late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
The Taber Pride event earlier this month drew approximately 250 people gathered to advocate for and celebrate strides towards equality and inclusion for its LGBTQ+ citizens, where the flag was supposed to be flown until the end of June to celebrate Pride month.
The Taber Pride event was sponsored by Taber Equality Alliance, a local not-for-profit dedicated to providing support for and fostering safe and inclusive space for people who identify as LGBTQ+.
“We as members of the Taber Equality Alliance are saddened by this seemingly senseless act of hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. This intolerance is unacceptable as this is not simply a theft of a flag, rather this flag is the symbol of a group of people who struggle for equality and safety in our community,” said the Taber Equality Alliance in a prepared statement. “More precisely, this senseless act is an assault on the very personhood of LGBTQ+ individuals in our community. This act, and the others as recently as last week in Lethbridge will not deter us from our continued love-inspired advocacy. Hate will not have the last word in our community of Taber.” “We reaffirm and resolutely stand for love — a love that includes everyone. Taber Equality Alliance wishes to express its gratitude to Town of Taber administration, and the Taber Police Service for their professionalism and support in this matter.”
The Taber Police Service were informed at approximately 9 a.m. on Monday of the theft of the Pride Flag that was being flown at the Town of Taber flag pole situated directly behind the Town of Taber administration building. The police have been in contact with the Taber Equality Alliance and have offered victim support services.
Taber police have completed the forensic investigation at the scene that has identified persons of interest. The Taber Police Service would also like to identify any possible witnesses who may have been in the area when the crime was committed at approximately between midnight and 3 a.m. on Monday to contact the Taber Police Service at 403-223-8991.
“I am confident that this theft will not deter the Taber Equality Alliance from their activities in our town. We support healthy and diverse communities, and work hard to make sure all feel safe. We will work diligently to apprehend those responsible,” said Graham Abela, chief of police for the Taber Police Service.
The Town of Taber also released a brief statement related to the theft, adding ‘we are aware of the theft of the Taber Pride Flag from Confederation Park, and are working with the Taber Police Service in an ongoing investigation. To preserve the integrity of the investigation, the Town of Taber cannot provide any further details. The Town of Taber strongly condemns theft or vandalism of any kind, and have reached out to the Taber Equality Alliance to provide support where we can.’
The raising of the Pride Flag in Taber met with some controversy back in late March, when the TEA requested council’s support for hosting a ceremony in front of the Administration Building, utilizing the town’s main flagpole for a Pride-Flag raising that would coincide with the planned Taber Pride Fest event being held on June 12, with the intention of having the flag displayed at that location for the remainder of June 2017. That motion was denied 5-2 in which Coun.(s) Rick Popadynetz and Laura Ross-Giroux were the sole votes in favour of the motion.
In a follow up motion, town council voted 4-3 to authorize the flying of the Pride flag on the town’s flagpole located on the southeast corner of Confederation Park (behind the Administration Building). Then Mayor Henk DeVlieger (who has since resigned) and Coun.(s) Andrew Prokop and Jack Brewin opposed the motion. Prior to both motions, Brewin requested that each vote be officially recorded in the minutes of the March 27 council meeting.
Council was unable to attend Taber Pride if they wished due to a council meeting last Monday that ran at the same time as Taber Pride Fest, but councillor Ross-Giroux did issue a statement of support that was read at the event and councillor Popadynetz wore rainbow suspenders to match the Pride Flag.