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Heber residents hang new Pride flags as police progress stalls in vandalism investigation

  Encircle’s Executive Director, Jordan Sgro, told KPCW Encircle gives help to LGBTQ+ youth and young adults by providing a safe space for them to be themselves. 

“We provide a whole host of mental health services, therapy programs, support groups, education, general drop in hours where youth can kind of come and hang out and study, eat, do whatever,” she said. 

Encircle opened its fourth location in Heber City on Saturday, June 10, 2023.
Rob Winder
Encircle, a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth, opened its Heber location in June 2023. Its rainbow sidewalk was targeted by vandalism last week.

Police in Heber say they don’t have any leads after vandals were caught on camera stealing Pride flags around town.

Heber Police are investigating three separate cases as of March 14. A rainbow sidewalk at Encircle, a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth in Heber, was spray-painted black, and homeowners caught masked individuals on camera as they ripped down residents’ Pride flags; one made what appeared to be a Nazi salute.

Heber Police Sgt. Josh Weishar said video of the vandalism at Encircle hasn’t yielded any suspects.

“The video from the spray-paint case is so grainy that there’s no way to identify who was spray-painting the concrete,” he said.

He said in the doorbell camera footage, the individuals’ masks make them difficult to identify.

The officer in charge of investigating these cases said she has no progress to report as of Wednesday night, March 20.

Meanwhile, the incidents have sparked strong reactions in the community.

Resident Anjie Kennard said her family was shocked when they saw their transgender pride flag had been stolen overnight. She said they’ll press charges if or when the perpetrators are identified.

“It’s not just kids being kids,” she said. “It’s hate being taught.”

She said while they haven’t had flags stolen before, the incident is hardly the only instance of transphobia her family has encountered while living in Heber. Kennard said the environment can be challenging for her son, who’s transgender, and for other LGBTQ+ kids in town.

“That’s all they want to do: be themselves and live their life,” she said. “They’re just trying to exist in a really ugly world that does not want them to exist.”

Pride flags have a charged history in Heber: the city council effectively banned Pride flags on Main Street in 2020, a year after rainbow banners that read “Pride in the Wasatch Back” sparked significant backlash. Now, street banners are restricted to federal and state holidays and must be deemed non-political.

And Kennard said other residents have reached out to her with similar stories about when their Pride flags were stolen.

Nevertheless, she said the incident won’t stop her family from showing support for LGBTQ+ rights.

“We’re obviously going to put up another flag,” she said. “It’s not even for [our son], it’s for other kids that are in a situation that they don’t have parents that accept them for who they are.”

She said they already have a new trans pride flag to replace the stolen one – and this time, they’ll hang it higher than ever.

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