A local LGBTQ radio station’s remote-broadcast vehicle was vandalized in Houston’s gayborhood last week. The station’s owner believes the car was targeted because of its queer-affirming design.
Easton Santos, the owner of OUT & PROUD LIVE (OPL), was in Katy at around 1:30 a.m. on December 28 when he received a text stating that his vehicle had been smashed. The car—displaying a rainbow-colored roof and logo—had been stationed in a parking lot in Montrose between the LGBTQ bars Ripcord and George.
“One of the bartenders at Ripcord sent me a picture of the back window broken out,” Santos says. “There were also key scratches all up and down the paint job. The kicker was that there were thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the car, but nothing was stolen.”
Most mainstream radio stations have broadcast vehicles, Santos says, and the fact that nothing was stolen leads him to believe the incident was an anti-LGBTQ hate crime. “This was completely done with [malicious intent],” he says. “It’s blatantly a queer vehicle. There’s no hiding it. That’s the point.”
Santos filed a report with Houston Police Department (HPD) on January 4. HPD spokesperson Jodi Sylva says there are currently no suspects due to the lack of surveillance footage from the crime scene. Those who have information on the vandalization should contact Crime Stoppers Houston at 713-521-4600.
OPL launched last March to provide local news and entertainment to LGBTQ Houston. The station’s remote-broadcast vehicle had been vandalized twice before last week’s incident, Santos says.
“The first time it was parked over in the Medical Center and someone took medical tape and wrote ‘AIDS’ on the front window, and also put crosses on it,” he recalls. “The second time it was parked at our studio and someone took a rock, banged a bunch of dents into it, and scratched the paint.”
The vehicle had only recently been repaired when it was taken back out to be parked in Montrose. “We had been parking it there because we thought it would be safer in the community with more eyes on it,” Santos says.
“You would think, being in the fourth-largest city in America, people would be more accepting of a media presence like that,” he adds, noting that he now fears for the safety of his personal vehicle. “It’s made me think twice about where I park my own car [because] I have an equality sticker on the back of it.”
Despite the emotional hardship, Santos says OPL plans to use its commercial insurance to fix the vehicle and rewrap it in rainbow colors.
“We’re not going to let this stop us,” he says. “We’re not going to let this deter us from doing what our mission has been from the beginning—to give Houston a queer radio station.”
For more information on OUT & PROUD LIVE, visit outandproudlive.com.