Police in Vermont’s largest city are investigating an apparent arson as a hate crime after a gay couple’s rainbow Pride flag was lit on fire on their front porch.
“We were shaking,” Chris Vaccaro of Burlington recalled, describing his reaction when he and his husband learned their flag was torched. “Absolutely shaking. It was terrifying.”
Vaccaro showed necn and NBC 10 Boston the melted and charred remnants of the couple’s Pride flag, which was turned into a hard mass that was fused to their porch railing. Vaccaro noted the act risked a house fire.
Burlington Police are investigating the case as a hate crime.
“I think Burlingtonians need to respond to an act like this with support and a very vocal position of saying, ‘This is unacceptable to us,’” said Dep. Chief Jon Murad of the Burlington Police Department.
Murad told necn and NBC 10 Boston that his investigators are working to secure surveillance footage from the area of the home, in an attempt to generate leads.
Police believe the fire was set sometime late Friday into early Saturday morning.
Murad asked anyone who might have seen anything suspicious in the area of Archibald Street or Riverside Avenue to call Detective John Stoughton at 802-540-2288.
A replacement flag quickly went up on the couple’s porch in Burlington’s Old North End.
When asked what he would say to the person who lit the flag on fire, Vaccaro responded, “Love wins. Love wins, every time. The LGBT community is about love, not hate. We’re not going to return hate with hate, and you’re not going to douse our love.”
Adding insult to injury for Vaccaro—the discovery came the first weekend of June’s LGBT Pride Month.
“It hits us to the core,” said Mike Bensel, the executive director of the Pride Center of Vermont.
Bensel said he hopes people see the apparent arson as a reminder to stay focused on protecting and strengthening human rights.
“It just shows that we have a lot of work to do, and it’s important that we do this work together,” Bensel said.
As for Vaccaro, he said he and his husband are determined to not let anything stifle the spirit of their LGBT friends and neighbors.
“This is about being proud—about being who you are,” Vaccaro said.