Several LGBTQ+ leaders have denounced the city of Duvall’s decision to take down a Pride-themed display downtown following the appearance of white supremacist symbols, saying its removal condones hateful behavior.
City officials removed all signs, banners, flags and decorations from public “right-of-ways” in the early morning hours of July 21. The removed items included the Pride Wall, a series of ribbons strung along a fence near downtown that resembled a Pride Flag. The wall had been on display outside of Valley Mail for over a year as a partnership between an LGBTQ+ group and local businesses.
“For public safety, legal, and equity reasons, the city was required to take this action at this time to remove all material from city owned fences,” the city wrote in a post on its Facebook page.
Removal of the Pride Wall and other decorations came two days after a flag used by far-right extremists was hung on a city-owned fence.
The flag, featuring a pine tree design, was once flown during the American Revolution, according to reporting from the Phoenix News Times. But in recent years, the outlet reports, it has been adopted by evangelicals and become a symbol of far right Christian extremism. The flag was also flown by rioters during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
This is the second reported instance of white supremacist material circulating in the lower Valley this summer. Last month, several fliers with ties to a “White Lives Matter” group were spread in Carnation and Monroe. Pride Flags were also stolen from businesses in Carnation on two separate instances.
The racist flag found in Duvall has coincided with threats against city leadership, city spokesperson Jason Grenn wrote in an email to the Valley Record.
“We cannot say it was a direct threat against a single person or official, but it did prompt a call to federal law enforcement by city administration,” he said.
Grenn said the city removed all material on city-owned fences until the city council considers a policy on banners, flags and decorations in public spaces. There is no city code supporting the approval or permitting of these materials, he said.
The city council will hold a discussion on that policy at its meeting on Aug. 15.
Grenn said the city wanted to hold off on removing the Pride Wall until after the Aug. 15 meeting, but noted they were concerned someone would destroy it if they waited. They also wanted to remove the pine tree flag immediately due to complaints that it was threatening to people of color, he said.
“We are serious about our commitment to partner and quickly find a place to display the [Pride] ribbons,” Grenn wrote.
The Duvall Pride Wall has been on display for over a year as a partnership between Valley Mail and Pride Across the Bridge, an Eastside LGBTQ+ group.
Axton Burton, founder of the group, said in a phone interview they were disappointed and frustrated by the city’s decision. The removal came before an official vote of the council, they said, and goes against the city’s prior commitments to support its LGBTQ+ residents.
Burton said the display was a visible message that Duvall was a safe and welcoming community. Removing it, they said, “follows rude people being led by hate” and contributes to those trying to remove visibility of LGBTQ+ residents.
Greg Jamiel, founder of SnoValley Pride, shared similar concerns. He said he was disappointed by the city’s response to complaints from a “tiny minority” of the community.
“There was a missed opportunity to show that Duvall and the Valley had zero tolerance for hate,” he said.
Jenna Navin, who was raised in Duvall and is now president of Chelan Pride, said she experienced a lack of acceptance growing up, and was disheartened by the city’s decision. The removal, she said, undermines recent progress for the Valley’s LGBTQ+ community.
“The Pride Wall has served as a beacon of inclusivity and acceptance for over a year, providing solace and support to both locals and visitors of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Navin wrote in a statement share with the Valley Record.
“If such a display had been available during my teenage years,” she said, “I believe it would have made a significant difference in my life, sparing me years of emotional struggle.”