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The theft and setting of an LGBTQ+ flag on fire in Ellensburg has sparked a wave of support for the LGBTQ+ community from across the region.

On June 9 a man stole an LGBTQ+ flag from the Student Union and Recreation Center on the Central Washington University campus. The man later posted a video of himself on social media burning the flag. A suspect has been arrested and charged with the crime.

On Friday, a representative from Seattle Pridefest will bring a 30-foot by 130-foot Pride flag that will be displayed from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the lawn in front of Barge Hall before it returns to Seattle.

Kandee Cleary, CWU vice president of diversity said the stolen flag belonged to the student group EQuAL, and has since been replaced. CWU police report they have arrested a suspect with the help of the community. Posting on Facebook that they take these crimes seriously.

“CWU Police would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the Wildcat Community for all the information and tips that allowed us to successfully investigate and apprehend the suspect responsible for the theft and burning of CWU Diversity Center’s pride flag,” the CWU Police posted.

Cleary sees this as more than a simple theft, but an act of hate that makes students, faculty and staff feel unsafe and as if they don’t belong at their university.

“I think certainly that it was heartbreaking,” Cleary said. “I think that’s what impacted me most.”

The diversity, equity and inclusivity department at CWU worked with EQuAL to develop a safe space for students to talk about how this act has impacted their experience at CWU last Friday. Cleary said they are also working to schedule a “town hall” meeting at the university sometime in the next few weeks for students to discuss similar challenges they may face at CWU.

This crime has reached beyond the university and into the rest of the Ellensburg community. The Ellensburg city council released a statement condemning the act.

“A community can only thrive when hatred is called out and its citizens work together to build unity through respect,” the statement read.

As for the perpetrator, the consequences are still in the air. Cleary said the university will hold the student conduct trial.

“We just have to wait for it to go through the legal process and the student conduct process and take it from there,” Cleary said.

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