NEW ALBANY — Two weeks ago, a crowd of protesters paused underneath the flags at East Spring Street Neighborhood Association Park to pray before continuing their march to downtown.
On Friday morning, it was discovered that two of those flags — an LGBT Pride flag and a Black Lives Matter flag — had been stolen, and the American flag had been left tangled at the base of the pole.
“I just felt outraged and disgusted,” said Greg Phipps upon finding the damage. Phipps is a New Albany City Councilman and a member of the neighborhood association. His husband, Greg Roberts, is the president of the association, and they help oversee upkeep of the park.
The park is at East Spring Street and 11th Street. It used to be a blighted property before the city took ownership and razed the home on the lot. The city allowed the association to maintain the property, and the organization received a grant through the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County to landscape the park.
“There’s a lot of neighborhood energy that’s been invested in that corner and it’s something that we’re very proud of and we’re sorry to see that we can’t even exercise our rights of expression,” Phipps said.
Roberts was also angered by the crime, but he said it will serve as motivation for the association.
“It isn’t going to work because we’re going to put them right back up. We’re not going to be silenced,” he said.
The hope is to replace the Pride and American flags quickly, though due to high demand, it may take some time before the association can purchase another Black Lives Matter flag.
New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey said the department is aware of the situation.
“We have made a report and the matter is being investigated,” he said.
The association flies the LGBT flag each June to honor LGBT Pride Month. The Black Lives Matter flag was added to the pole about two weeks ago.
Roberts said the association represents and includes a diverse group of people and that they strive to support their causes. Flying the flags is a way to support those causes, he added. Phipps said those flags show support for two groups who have been struggling for civil rights.
“It’s just to show that anybody that’s in our neighborhood is being represented and we want to hear their voices,” Roberts said.
During the June 13 rally, Phipps said he observed several people stopping to have their photos taken underneath the flags.
“It was something I think that a lot of people were proud of — that it was here in our city,” he said.