Poulsbo speaks out about Pride banner vandalism

The Poulsbo City Council, Mayor Becky Erickson and many community members condemned the recent vandalism of Pride banners along Front Street at the governing body’s June 5 meeting.

Erickson began the meeting by reading a “Declaration of Hope,” which was approved by council.

“Hate is hate and hate is wrong,” Councilmember Rick Eckert said, visibly choked up. “It doesn’t matter who it’s targeting or who is targeted. We don’t stand for it, not in our city.”

Erickson addressed criticism she received regarding not immediately making a statement about the situation. “The defacing of the banners is an ongoing criminal investigation, and as the mayor of the city of Poulsbo, I never make comments about ongoing criminal investigations. It would be inappropriate and actually could impede or interrupt the investigation.”

Many people spoke during public comments condemning the vandalism. Some called upon the police department to do more.

“(Poulsbo) is not a safe place to live. It is not a welcoming place to live, it is not an inviting place to live,” Emery Tallon said. “There are people in this room who have had their very livelihoods threatened by individual and group actions in this town.

“While I admire and uphold the city for making a firm statement tonight and for raising the flags, it’s going to take much more than that,” he concluded.

Pam Keeley added: “Ignoring it validates it. We want leadership that models honesty, transparency and the courage to grow.”

Rory Jansen pointed out that the LGBTQIA+ community is nine times more likely to be victim of violent crime and LGBTQIA+ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide.

“This is not because they are an inherently more violent or depressed group. This is because of societal biases,” Jansen said. “ I want to unequivocally know that you have our backs so we can have yours.”

Following public comments, city leaders spoke.

“We feel you. We hear you,” Erickson said. “Everyone quit hating each other. That’s not who we are as people. I keep thinking about Logan coming back to sew those flags up. That’s who Poulsbo is. It is infuriating to me that we try so hard to be open, gracious and loving in this community, and yet we have these things occur.”

Councilmember Britt Livdahl added: “It’s disgusting. It was a violent assault on our city property that represents much more than just property. I promise I will work toward holding this body and government accountable to find out who did this and prevent it from happening in the future.”

While Councilmember Gary McVey condemned the criminal act, he also wanted to highlight the progress the community has made in being a more welcoming and inclusive place.

“I think we’ve made considerable progress in the five years I’ve been on City Council. Are we all the way where we want to be? No. The elimination of hate within a geographic region is not an easy thing to accomplish.

“While I was saddened by the acts of this one individual, I have been uplifted by the response of our community. I disagree that our police department is dysfunctional. I think that’s a ridiculous accusation. I disagree that Poulsbo is not a welcoming community…Is everyone who comes in and out of our borders perfect and have a clean heart? No, unfortunately, they don’t.”

Police chief Ron Harding said information is still being gathered for the investigation. The department has posted on its Facebook page surveillance video from a downtown business that shows a potential suspect. A “tall person wearing a green jacket, a baseball cap, full-face covering, black gloves and what seems to be a long white pole with a cutting instrument attached,” the Facebook post states.

Harding said, “If we’re able to charge this as a hate crime we absolutely will.”

The banners have been repaired and will remain displayed downtown.

A GoFundMe account was set up on behalf of Poulsbo Pride’s inclusive initiatives. As of June 6, $6,000 has been donated. Funds go toward Poulsbo’s Pride in the Park celebration in September.