RENTON, Wash. -- A Pride month display in front of the United Christian Church in Renton has been vandalized several times over the last week. The FBI is now investigating it as a hate crime. Community members and churchgoers are refusing to give in to fear and gathered for a vigil on Friday.
The Pride Month display is back up, standing loud and proud with the words “God's doors are open to all” across them. A seventh door has also been put up, reading “love wins.”
With each hope-filled pass of the paint roller, Cameron McLaughlin's pride for his community grows.
“These don’t belong to the church, these belong to the community. These belong to anyone who believes God's doors are open to all. We just want to show love.”
Rebuilding a Pride Month display that has taken several hits in just the last week.
“It’s been an emotional week, I have broken down into tears a couple of times.”
The doors were pushed down, and picked back up. Then one was damaged and burned, and it was replaced,
“We did not put them up to stand against vandals.”
Then four of the doors were removed by ATF and FBI officials Wednesday because three had fireworks attached to the back of them, blowing holes through them. In the same act of vandalism, one door had a bible verse written on it, basically condemning anyone who is with someone of the same sex.
“Turning frustration or anger into other emotions is hard, turning sadness into hope and into love, is something we can do.”
The resilient rainbow-colored doors once protected only by hope and prayer, now have some added protection.
“There’s one up here, one on the other side and there’s one on our office building.”
Through a GoFundMe page, several people donated enough money for three surveillance cameras, putting eyes on the entire property.
“We need to make sure that everyone feels safe. We are very grateful for the community for supplying us with the funds to be able to do this .”
And it’s because of that same community that there is added support for the church and the message on the display, as people gathered on the lawn of the church for a vigil.
Jamie Fleming lives nearby and drives past the church, and the doors, daily.
“This has just been really empowering. I think there was sadness, and then from that sadness came something much better.”
Many of the people in attendance, including Jamie, are still baffled as to how people could be so full of hate.
“Just heartbreaking, just made me sad, made me sad for my children—that’s not the community that we are trying to build here.”
So now, the church is standing behind their message.
“We are not gonna give in to the fear, and love will win.”
Members of the church do what they have been doing, one rainbow color at a time, they rebuild.
“We just want to have the display up to show our love for our neighborhood and our love for the LGBTQI people, and just let them know that we are here.”
They rely on each other, and the support of their community, and they hope.
“This is gonna be ok; there is hope, there is love, and it will be ok.”
The FBI is currently investigating the acts of vandalism and are still looking for whoever is responsible.
The church is about a mile away from Lindbergh Senior High School. Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for any information that helps Renton Police solve this case.
If you saw someone running from the scene, a vehicle or can identify anyone involved, you will remain anonymous and receive a cash reward of up to $1,000. Submit a tip by going to http://www.P3Tips.com or by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). You can also use the P3 Tips App that you can download to your phone for free.