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This article is an updated version of a piece that previously appeared on Advocate.com. Read the orginal here.
A coffee shop in Bethel, Conn., a picturesque town 70 miles north of New York City, was vandalized last weekend when its Pride flag was torn down, burned, and dropped at the front door of the business.
According to Patch, local police are looking for two people who were caught on surveillance video burning the rainbow flag which hung in front of Molten Java Café. The video also shows one of the perpetrators returning to leave the burnt remnants of the flag by the front door, where the coffee shop's owner, Wendy Cahill, found the flag last Sunday morning and alerted police.
Captain Heather Burnes of the Bethel Police Department told Patch that while the department has has not officially classified the incident as a hate crime, it "hasn't ruled out that possibility. It is being treated very seriously, and we will pursue anyone who is caught to the fullest extent of the law," he said. "I am disgusted by it. It is a form of political intimidation that has no place in a free society anywhere."
“I love this town,” Cahill posted on Facebook. “I hesitated thinking that this incident would make anyone question the overwhelming support, kindness and sense of community we have. It’s a town full of amazing individuals and I feel very lucky to live and work here.”
Cahill's business has been in operation for decades and she is a prominent member of the community, serving as one of two registrars of voters in the town of over 18,000.
“If I had a chance to talk to [the vandals], I would ask what was the motivation and feeling behind it. Obviously hatred and homophobia but I don’t know why they would take the time to express it that way,” Cahill told the News-Times. “It’s hard to say.”
Police are reviewing video footage at the store and aren't yet ready to label the incident a hate crime. A Bethel resident's Pride flag was stolen from outside their home last year and a Pride flag at a church in nearby Danbury was burned twice in 2016.
“Being gay, in a small town is not easy and I know that personally. The pride flag is a meaningful symbol that defines a community of love and acceptance,” State Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan told the News-Times.