Police in Baltimore are searching for two men they believe burned a Pride flag outside of the LGBTQ shop Same Gender Love in the Mount Vernon neighborhood Saturday. The board chair of Pride Center Maryland, Merrick Moses, was filming an episode of Queer Conversations, “an internet series featuring racial, sexual and gender minorities, inside the shop when the flag was burned,” with host LaToi Williams when the crime occurred, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Surveillance footage shows two men running away from the store, which sells LGBTQ-themed novelties and cards, after setting the flag on fire. The incident is being considered a hate crime.
“My first reaction was full of emotion,” said Marva Laws, the owner of the shop. “I was very angry because this is mine. It belongs to me. Of course I took it personally. My second reaction, after I think about it, is I feel sorry for whoever did it. What statement are you making, other than showing that somebody ignorant walked past my store?”
Laws, who was not at the shop at the time of the crime, at 9:40 a.m. Saturday, instructed the employee who reported it to immediately replace the rainbow flag, according to the Sun.
“That flag represents not just a people, but it also represents a struggle of a people to live as human beings,” Moses said. “The flag was adopted because it shows the diversity of our community. It also shows our strength and the promise of our country, that all people are created equal. When someone burns this flag, it says we don’t respect your humanity and we think you don’t belong here.”
Laws is hosting an event at the shop June 9 that will be part of a rebranding of the store’s name from Same Gender Love to Love Is Love in order to show that the place is inclusive and not just for same-gender-loving people.
“Our store was built and created on love,” Laws said. “That’s why I’m rebranding. I want to be completely inclusive. Love is love — period.”