By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
A gay activist says somebody tore a rainbow gay pride flag from his second-floor balcony and spray-painted a slur on the house he and his partner share. Police said they and the FBI are investigating it as a hate crime.
A neighbor got surveillance video of the crime early Saturday, but it doesn’t show the vandal’s face.
John Hill, 68, is a spokesman for Louisiana Equality Forum, an organization supporting equal rights activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. He also served as past president for the group.
He said he found it frightening because the perpetrator had clearly planned what to do and wasn’t in any rush.
Police put the video on YouTube and are asking the public to help identify the man. They offered a $2,500 reward.
“You do not have to give your name nor testify to receive the reward,” police said in a statement Sunday.
The video shows a white or light-colored van stopping in front of Hill’s house. The driver gets out, pulls out a ladder, climbs it and comes back down with a flag. He returns to the front of the car, then stands next to the building for several seconds before leaving. The entire video takes a minute and 45 seconds.
The slur was spray-painted on the outside of a closed window shutter, Hill said.
Hill said the flag was one that he and his partner, John Weimer Jr., brought to a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings about gay marriage. It was waving behind them in an Associated Press photograph of the partners kissing during the rally.
“We’d come home from that rally and hung it from our balcony, We said, `Let’s just hang it there until we get married,'” Hill said.
He said he thinks he may have been targeted either because of the flag or because he wrote a newspaper opinion piece saying Louisiana is still hostile toward gays. He was later interviewed on television about it.
“As to whether or not we were targeted because he had passed by our house and had seen the flag, or because he had seen me in the media … it’s just obvious we got targeted,” he said. “If you look at the video, there’s no issue about that. It was obviously planned.”
The vandalism occurred shortly after he arranged to get a Louisiana Equality Forum banner on his balcony for that evening’s White Linen Night gallery openings, which draw a big crowd to his street. The artist who rents a downstairs gallery from Hill and Weimer found it when she arrived later that morning to finish preparations for her opening, he said.
Four police officers were at the house within half an hour of the call, Hill said.
By the time people arrived for White Linen Night, Hill said, two smaller gay pride flags were flying on poles high on his balcony and another from a third-floor window.
“I’ve got thick skin,” Hill said.
He said he now sees the incident “as a gift. A gift this guy had given us to get out and tell the entire story of LGBT.”