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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Police in Ballymena treating removal of pride flags as ‘homophobic hate crime‘

Rainbow pride flag erected on lamppost in Ballymena town centre

Police in Ballymena are investigating after receiving a report of a number of rainbow ‘pride flags’ that were removed from various locations in the town centre, and say they are treating it as ‘homophobic hate crime’.

 

The flags were erected on town centre lampposts recently by 25-year-old LGBTQ+ campaigner and local resident Viktorija Racaite, assisted by a friend. However within hours of them being put up, the flags were removed.



Viktorija explained:


“On June 4th, 2024, my dear friend and I erected the first rainbow flag up at the Braidwater Roundabout. Less than 12 hours in, the flag was ripped off. We didn't report the incident to police, but rather just went and bought more flags to erect.


Rainbow pride flag erected on lamppost in Ballymena town centre

“In total we had seven flags to erect in support of our community - friends, family and most importantly - our children.


“We put the seven flags up last week on Tuesday 11th June, but they were ripped off again within hours.


“This time I contacted the PSNI to report the theft and hate crime, and the police took the incident very seriously. Police officers were very understanding and supportive of my fight for raising awareness and showing support for the vulnerable residents of the town.”



Rainbow pride flag erected on lamppost in Ballymena town centre

Viktorija continued:


“Those guilty were caught on CCTV, as we erected the majority of flags around places where cameras pointed directly to the street lampposts.


“Personally, I seek nothing else but reimbursement for the lost flags, an apology and some behaviour correction/education on LGBTQIA+ struggles for the offenders. Police informed me the suspects are in the age ranges of 15-19 years old.”



Rainbow pride flag erected on lamppost in Ballymena town centre

Commenting on the incident, a spokesperson for the police Service of Northern Ireland commented:


“It was reported that the flags were removed sometime between 1am–8am on Wednesday 12th June.

 

“The report is being treated as a homophobic hate crime at this stage, and police are appealing for anyone with any information which might assist their enquiries, to get in touch.

 

“The number to call is 101, quoting reference number 265 of 12/06/24.”



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