Featured photo: On Wednesday evening, the Greensboro LGBTQ Center’s progress flag was ripped down by two individuals who were caught on a surveillance camera. (courtesy photo)

It’s been hard for Jennifer Ruppe to get a good night’s sleep these past few days. On Wednesday evening, the organization for which she works — the Guilford Green Foundation and LGBTQ Center in downtown Greensboro — was the target of a theft.

Footage from a surveillance camera outside of the foundation caught two individuals walking down Greene Street, where the organization is located, stopping at the front window and peering in. A short while later, the two people can be seen wheeling a blue recycling bin back to the center and positioning it under the Progress flag that flies on the front of the building. Then one of the suspects climbs onto the bin, rips the flag down and exits the shot.

“We didn’t know about it until we came in the next morning,” Ruppe said.

As soon as they realized what had happened, Ruppe says they filed a police report with local law enforcement. According to Ron Glenn with the Greensboro Police Department, they don’t have much information at the moment nor does the department have any leads on the suspects.

That’s why Ruppe and her team decided to offer a $500 reward for anyone who may have information that could lead to finding the perpetrators involved.

“We hoped to make a statement that this kind of action, vandalism against LGBTQ people and this space is not going to go unnoticed,” Ruppe said.

On Thursday afternoon the foundation posted the clearest image of the two suspects on their Facebook page along with a snippet from the surveillance video. Even if they can’t catch the perpetrators, Ruppe wants to send a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

A screenshot from the surveillance footage shows two individuals who worked to pull down the LGBTQ+ Center’s flag on Wednesday night. (courtesy photo)

“When people feel emboldened to take action like this, it is not necessarily representative of our community,” Ruppe says. “The center will always be a safe space for LGBTQ people and we don’t take lightly when people threaten that space. Most importantly, we want to catch these people and tell people this is not acceptable behavior.”

This is the second time the center, which has been at its downtown location since January 2020, has had to replace their flag, Ruppe says. The first time was when a group of drunk individuals yanked it down. But this time feels more direct, she says.

“It was a reminder that this space in and of itself is a threat to some people and some people are so emboldened in their hate that they think it’s ok and that they think that they can get away with that,” Ruppe says.

And even though no one was hurt, Ruppe says that attacks like this take an emotional toll.

“I don’t think that people understand the emotional toll that this takes,” Ruppe says. “We’re ok. I say ok to mean exactly what it is. We are ok; we are not great; we are not terrible.”

According to FBI data analyzed by NBC News, in 2020, hate crime incidents based on anti-LGBTQ bias were down in 2020 compared to 2019 but reports of incidents motivated by gender-identity bias jumped by almost 20 percent for the second year in a row.

And statistics show that transgender individuals are much more likely to be victims of hate crimes.

“This year is also on track to be the deadliest on record for transgender people, with at least 35 trans and gender-nonconforming people having been killed so far — most of them Black trans women — according to the Human Rights Campaign,” NBC News reported.

Nearly half of more than 27,000 trans adults surveyed by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2015 reported that they were verbally harassed in the previous year and close to nine percent were physically attacked.

“I don’t think that people understand the emotional toll that this takes. We’re ok. I say ok to mean exactly what it is. We are okay; we are not great; we are not terrible.” -Jennifer Ruppe

Mayor Nancy Vaughan, reached by text on Friday said she hopes that the suspects are held accountable for their actions.

“It was a deliberate and bold act of vandalism on an organization that has built their reputation on inclusivity and diversity,” Vaughan wrote. “The GGF community center is a safe space for people to express themselves. That will continue. I hope that the individuals who are responsible for the vandalism will be brought to justice.”

The Guilford Green Foundation has been located downtown since Jan. 2020. Before that, it was situated on W. Bessemer Ave. (courtesy photo)

For now she and her staff are continuing to seek information about the two individuals involved and ask that anyone with information contact the organization. And for those that might want to send them a new flag, Ruppe says they’re more than welcome to. If they have extra, they will distribute them to LGBTQ youth or anyone who wants to fly a flag on their home or business. The organization is also collecting funds if community members want to support them with donations.

“We are here; we are open,” Ruppe says. “We’re not hosting as many events as we wish we could because of COVID, but we’re not working remotely. We are not shut down. In this last year, we engaged with almost 3,000 constituents in our community. We do the best that we can safely, we do things virtually, we do things outside, and most importantly we try to protect this space for the most vulnerable people in our community.”

To learn more about the Guilford Green Foundation, visit their website here.

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