'It's a Really Tough Time': Vandal Throws Rock Through Front Door of Pride Center | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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'It's a Really Tough Time': Vandal Throws Rock Through Front Door of Pride Center


The Pride Center door - MATTHEW ROY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Matthew Roy ©️ Seven Days
  • The Pride Center door
Updated at 3:52 p.m.

Someone shattered the front door of the Pride Center of Vermont with a rock overnight, the latest act of anti-LGBTQ violence.

Other tenants in the Burlington office building that houses the Pride Center noticed the vandalism early Tuesday morning and alerted center staff and police, executive director Mike Bensel said.

Building surveillance video shared with Bensel captured a person who walked up to the South Champlain Street office just after midnight, threw two objects at the door and strode off.
Staff recovered a chunk of concrete in the entryway. Nothing appeared to have been stolen or damaged inside, Bensel said.

A Burlington Police Department officer on scene said the department would issue a press release about the incident later Tuesday.

The vandalism comes two weeks after Fern Feather, a trans woman, was stabbed to death. Seth Brunell, who has been charged with second-degree murder of Feather, claimed to police that she'd made an unwanted sexual advance. Feather was well known throughout the state, and her death prompted an outpouring of grief.

The vandalism occurred as LGBTQ education and activism in Vermont and Burlington, in particular, draws national scrutiny. Earlier this month, a news segment by Fox News host Laura Ingraham broadcasted video clips from a Burlington School District gender identity workshop, which inspired dozens of right-wing culture warriors to send vitriolic messages to district personnel.

Ingraham had accused the district of "grooming" children, employing a term implying that gender and sex education manipulates students similar to the way pedophiles lay groundwork for sexual assault.
The Pride Center has received an uptick in hate mail since Ingraham's segment aired, Bensel said. Bensel provided a copy of one rambling screed that arrived Monday. The letter writer declared "we are straight-forward" before proceeding to describe LGBTQ people as unwell.

"It's a really tough time for LGBTQ folks, especially trans folks, in Vermont," Bensel said. "It impacts folks' sense of safety and their ability to be their authentic selves anywhere in the state, knowing that they're being targeted based on their identity."

Williston Police logged a report of a rock thrown through glass at a Planned Parenthood center in that town on April 16, though there's no indication the incidents may be related.
Mike Bensel, right, and a maintenance worker covering up the broken door on Tuesday morning - DEREK BROUWER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Derek Brouwer ©️ Seven Days
  • Mike Bensel, right, and a maintenance worker covering up the broken door on Tuesday morning
The Pride Center of Vermont has been a recurring target of vandalism. Stickers from the neofascist hate group Patriot Front appeared on the center's front door in 2019.
Back in 2007, an earlier iteration of the Pride Center on Elmwood Avenue was the target of a series of apparent hate-motivated vandalism, including an incident in which someone threw a brick through a front-porch window. The center then auctioned the brick to raise money; it's been saved in a glass case in the Pride Center's library.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement that he was "very troubled and angered" by the most recent incident.

"Our City is using its full resources to investigate who committed this crime and why," he said, adding that ensuring that Burlington is welcoming for LGBTQ people is "more important than ever."

On Tuesday morning, Bensel and a maintenance worker taped a pride flag across the open door frame.

"We're a resilient community," Bensel said. "Whenever this happens, it just shows us that there's a huge need for our organization to exist. We're not going anywhere and our work is not done."