Several Pride flags hanging along Tolt Avenue in Carnation were torn down and stolen early morning June 17 — only a week after a local Pride Month celebration was held in the city.
Christa Charter, owner of Bear and Bee Used Books, said surveillance video showed someone taking the Pride flag she had hanging outside her shop just before 1 a.m. June 17, damaging her store window in the process.
Charter said the suspect then proceeded to steal a majority of the flags hung along Tolt Avenue, which is Carnation’s main street.
In an email Sunday, King County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Mellis said the theft is under investigation. There are no identified suspects, he said.
Carnation City Manager Ana Cortez told Kiro 7 News the city will reach out to the Justice Department for a full investigation, noting the city and its council have zero tolerance for hateful actions directed at community members.
City spokesperson Ashlyn Farnworth reiterated those comments in a statement to the Valley Record.
“The City of Carnation and the State of Washington will fully investigate the unfortunate incident that took place downtown,” she wrote in an email. “We are proud of the community members that rallied around the businesses with vandalized property and replaced the Pride flags in a matter of hours.”
A total of 16 Pride flags were hung by local businesses and city hall this June in recognition of Pride Month. The flags were purchased by SnoValley Pride, a local LGBTQ+ community group.
Earlier in June, SnoValley Pride hosted its inaugural Pride Picnic, celebrating the Valley’s LGBTQ+ community, at Tolt Commons Park.
Greg Jamiel, founder of SnoValley Pride, said they were disappointed by the theft, but not surprised.
“When members of our LGBTQ+ community see a Pride flag, it represents safety to us,” Jamiel said in a text to the Valley Record. “When some other people see it, it represents a threat. Luckily those feelings are not what the majority of people in our community and country feel.”
Charter said having Pride flags and stickers at her bookstore has helped create a more welcoming space.
“I’ve had kids come in and see all my Pride stickers — before this incident even — and had people say it feels so welcoming in here,” she said. “That means a lot to me.”
After the theft, “The town just rallied,” Charter said. Community members went to the craft store and replaced the flags within hours.
“To me, that is the definition of community, and I am grateful for the beautiful community we have here in Carnation,” Jamiel said, later adding: “Hate has no place here.”
White supremacist materials
Alongside the flag theft, there were reports of white supremacist materials being spread across Fall City and Carnation. It is unclear if the two events are related.
Charter, the bookstore owner, said printed paper reading “white lives matter,” weighed down by animal feed bags, appeared in several areas over the weekend.
Residents in nearby Monroe reported receiving similar materials, according to a statement from the city posted on Facebook.
“The Monroe Police Department was contacted by a downtown resident reporting printed literature dropped in their yard supporting the ‘white lives matter movement,’” the statement said. “The resident noted the literature was visible in yards along the street.”
Reports of the literature came just days before the Juneteenth federal holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
Mellis, the sheriff’s office spokesperson, said that they were unaware of any materials being spread in King County.