The charred remnants of a transgender pride flag were found on a bus stop bench in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood Friday morning.
"My reaction, as a trans person, is it's just disgraceful," said area resident Christian MacNeal in an interview with NBC's San Diego affiliate. "It's upsetting, especially in Hillcrest."
Hillcrest is known as one of San Diego's "gayborhoods." On Friday, dozens of trans pride flags still hung throughout the streets in honor of the recent Trans Day of Remembrance.
Reporter Nicole Gomez said those in the area felt "saddened" and "sickened" about the incident.
"It makes me really nervous for the trans community because so many of us end up killed or beaten up," said MacNeal.
"We urge all San Diegans to stand up to anti-transgender discrimination, hate, and violence wherever and whenever that face it in their daily lives," San Diego Pride said in a statement.
San Diego Police Department officer Shawn Takeuchi told the NBC affiliate that the incident would be investigated as potential arson, and that it was too early to tell if it could be considered a hate crime.
Some locals expressed frustration at the perceived reluctance. "Whelp Shawn, this one really doesn't seem very difficult to figure out!" wrote Jae Red Rose, a San Diego Trans Pride organizer, in a public post on Facebook.
The number of hate crimes targeting trans people has risen, according to recently released data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Trans people, especially those of color, often face higher levels of violence than cisgender people -- and frequently don't feel safe going to the police for help.
In a blog post from last week, San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Lopez wrote that during the Pride Youth Leadership Academy held in Balboa Park, the public-facing gender-neutral restrooms were repeatedly vandalized.
"Our staff, including myself, were berated and harassed multiple times," Lopez wrote.
"As our movement continues to push for greater visibility, acceptance, legal protections, and equity, the push back stoked by a vehemently anti-trans administration is having a loud and violent impact on our community. We need to continue to invest in our trans community in ways that build upon their power, knowledge, and safety," Lopez wrote.
The burned flag in San Diego is one of many recent incidents of vandalism targeting LGBTQ Pride flags. A few weeks ago, a man was arrested outside a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, for attempting to burn a rainbow flag. Pride flags have also been set on fire in New York, Kansas, and Maryland, and stolen in West Virginia.