Grand Rapids organization hangs bigger LGBTQ Pride flag after vandalism

Posted at 10:29 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 22:29:39-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A Grand Rapids organization is asking for the public's help in identifying a man seen vandalizing an LGBTQ pride flag outside their building.

The president of The Geek Group on Leonard Street says a man tried to rip down a flag hanging outside their building just 12 hours after they hung it up in support of Grand Rapids' Pride Week.

Instead of calling the police, the organization did something else. The suspect caught on camera didn't succeed in tearing down the flag, but there was some damage done to it.

Geek Group President Chris Boden says they decided to go online and order the biggest pride flag they could find to take its place and they hung it up higher where no one can reach it.

Boden is not one to be subtle. Inside their building on Leonard Street is a space for free thinkers and creators with plenty of explosions, lightning and robots being made every day.

"I"m a nerd," said Boden. "I'm the president of The Geek Group. I spent my whole life growing up getting beat up because I dressed different. I acted funny. I was the idiot weirdo kid and I was a computer nerd."

It's an upbringing like this, Boden says, that makes him a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community and Pride Week.

"We are fanatical supporters of equal rights," said Boden. "We're not fanatical supporters of special rights. We're supporters of equal rights for everybody for a really obscure reason: because they're people. That's enough for me."

Last week, a man was caught on a surveillance camera attempting to rip down the pride flag hanging outside.

"This stupid dude walks down the street, sees a pride flag, gets his knickers in a twist and tries to yank it down," said Boden. "He doesn't do very good at it. First rule of ripping down flags is you have to be smarter than the flag and he kind of fails at it. He tries again and continues stumbling on down the street defeated."

The suspect didn't take the flag, but he did do some damage. It was enough damage in Boden's eyes.

"The next day, we fixed the flag and we bought a bigger flag," said Boden. "In fact, we bought the biggest flag we could get on Amazon and have it ship Prime. Instead of having that on ground level where you can get it and only see it on our block really, we put it on top of the roof and bolted it to a giant piece of steel and it's on a brick wall. Good luck getting to it now."

Instead of filing a police report, Boden posted the surveillance video online, hoping someone might recognize the man on camera.

"If I file a police report nothing is going to happen," said Boden. "If I take the time to write a post and communicate how I felt and why and the meaning and teach people some history, that's my job. I'm an educator. Instead of saying some idiot ripped my pride flag down, you get a big pride flag. You put it up, you teach people what pride is and you teach them why it exists."

Boden says it's the perfect message to send ahead of the Grand Rapids Pride Festival this weekend.

"I"m really well-attuned to what it's like growing up getting beat up because you're different," said Boden. "Because of that and because they are people is why I support Pride Week."

Boden decided not to file a police report for the vandalism because he thinks they have a better chance of identifying the guy by posting the surveillance video online.

He also says by sharing the video, he can educate people to what Pride Week is all about and why they chose to fly the flag there in the first place.