CALDWELL, Idaho — Caldwell Police are investigating after pride flags were found vandalized on the College of Idaho's campus Tuesday night with a spray-painted message: "Not in my town!"
The flags were hung around campus as part of a Pride Month celebration Monday, which was organized by students. The Caldwell Police Department is investigating the incident and no suspects have been identified.
Student Body Vice President of Inclusive Excellence, Christian Garcia, was shocked to see the hateful messages on campus.
"I started crying. I am a member of the LGBTQ community myself, so seeing that, I don't think I've ever experienced hate or LGBTQ-phobia to that level," Garcia said. "I felt powerless. I was sitting in front of it and just looked at it wondering, 'how is it possible for someone to give so much hate?'"
Since the discovery Tuesday night, campus officials worked quickly to clean up the spray paint and students gathered Wednesday at the same spot to instead spread messages of love and acceptance.
Garcia says the act of hate only brought the community closer together.
After a hate crime on campus, the community at @collegeofidaho is spreading messages of love where vandalism was discovered last night. https://t.co/UiS3LktqqR (video from Christian Garcia) @IdahoNews6 pic.twitter.com/XOlwFkCP1a— Karen Lehr (@KarenLehr) June 24, 2020
Co-Presidents Doug Brigham and Jim Everett have issued the following statement:
“As you all know, there was an ugly act of hate on our campus last night. An act of hatred against one of us is an act against all of us. It was vandalism and it included the words ‘Not in My Town.’ This is our town and our campus and there is no place for hate here.
“We live, work, study and play here. We are more committed than ever to making our campus a safe place for all. It is a safe place in which everyone must feel welcome, where we value the opportunity to learn from one another and from diverse perspectives, cultures and lived experiences. We are Yotes and we are a pack that stands and works together. We will not be deterred on our efforts to be the most welcoming campus and community on earth. There is work to be done and we will continue to engage in that work every day. Love wins every time.”
Caldwell Mayor Garrett Nancolas also commented in support of the C of I community.
"Crime of any kind will not be tolerated in the City of Caldwell,” Nancolas said. “Hate crimes especially have no place in our beautiful city. Every person, no matter their race, gender, orientation or economic status deserves to be treated with kindness, respect, and the pure love of Christ. We love our College and all its students, and we value immensely the contributions the College continually brings to our community."
Among the organizers of the pride event on campus Monday night was the College’s Gender Sexuality Campus Alliance (GSCA), which issued the following statement after the incident:
“The Gender Sexuality Campus Alliance (GSCA) wholeheartedly condemns any hateful actions, large or small, which are targeted towards the LGBTQ+ community. To fellow members of our community, we want you to know that we are there for you, regardless of your identity or if you are out or not. To our allies, we encourage you to take a stand against actions of hate whenever you can. Our community is hurting and seeing your support for LGBTQ+ causes means more than you know.”
The Associated Students of the College of Idaho (ASCI) Executive Council also expressed support for the campus community in their statement:
“This act of hate is atrocious and holds no place here on our campus. Our Executive Council feels immense sorrow for our LGBTQ+ community and the rest of the individuals cherished in our community. In this time of trouble and sorrow, there is a silver lining. This is a teaching moment. We have learned that just being an ‘ally’ is not enough to protect our LGBTQ+ community. As budding scholars, we know how just how interconnected the fights for racial justice and LGBTQ justice are. It is our responsibility to ensure that safety is paramount within our community, but also that we are becoming better stewards of our community. We must actively ban together to create and instill values of anti-hate amongst our peers and our community. Now more than ever, The College of Idaho must stand strong against intolerance of any kind.”