A couple's Pride flag was slashed in Anaheim. Their neighbors rallied to send a message

Early Saturday morning, a man armed with a knife slashed through the Pride flag that hung outside a couple's Anaheim home, unleashing a slur meant to demean the LGBTQ+ community in the process.

The action, which targeted the home of Jake Nolan and his partner, Jon, was meant to send a message of hate and intolerance. The neighborhood sent back a message of support and inclusion.

"We're not going to tolerate hate," said Elia Renteria-Garcia, who has lived in the historic neighborhood known as the Colony for nearly seven years.

When Nolan, 35, noticed that the flag he had put up a few days earlier was no longer flying, he thought the wind might have knocked it down. But when he examined the flag, it appeared as though someone had tried to cut it. He reviewed video from his doorbell camera and saw something he'd never experienced while living in California.

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The video shows two darkened figures walking along Water Street near his home on Dickel Street about 2 a.m. One of the men makes a beeline for the flag, whipping out a knife as he steps onto the yard. He drags the knife through the center of the flag, using enough force to rip the pole off the house, the video shows.

The man, who has not been identified, mutters a pejorative term for a gay man as he walks away. Though it's difficult to hear in the video, the man appears to say "not in my neighborhood" as he continues down the street, Nolan said.

Nolan said he was disappointed by the behavior but brushed it off and quickly bought a new flag.

"We're not going to let this get us down," he said.

An Anaheim Police Department spokesperson confirmed that the agency received a report about the vandalism and is investigating. No suspects have been identified.

The incident is one of the latest examples of vandalism against Pride symbols across the nation during a month meant to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Orange County in particular has had issues with the symbol in recent years.

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Last year, a majority of the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to prohibit flying the Pride flag on county property, calling it "divisive." The vote followed a similar one in Huntington Beach that reversed a prior policy to fly the rainbow banner during Pride month. Last June, a teenage boy in Huntington Beach was arrested for allegedly ripping down a Pride flag.

In 2022, residents of Laguna Beach were angered when rainbow flags were stolen from businesses during Pride month.

A report released last year by the O.C. Human Relations Commission noted a 126% increase in anti-LGBTQ+ activity in 2022 from the previous year. Vandalism was the most common offense reported.

When Nolan moved to the historic district six years ago, he was told the neighborhood was more than just quaint Victorian and Craftsman homes. It's a place of community, he said. The neighbors gather for pumpkin carving each Halloween, pancake breakfasts, Fourth of July potlucks and neighborhood cleanups. When a neighbor recently fell ill, residents helped out by taking turns walking his dog.

The day he discovered the damaged flag, Nolan posted the surveillance video to the neighborhood Facebook group, writing, "well...that happened. Last night around 2 someone ripped our Pride flag and pole off the house. Lesson here, keep a backup."

Read more: Photos: Los Angeles Pride weekend

Renteria-Garcia, 45, saw Nolan's post and responded by ordering 10 Pride flags, which she offered to neighbors to fly at their homes in a show of support. One by one, neighbors knocked on her door seeking the rainbow banners. She has two left, she said Monday, and plans to order more.

"We want people to know the intent that was behind that — it's not OK," she said of the vandalism. "We need to make sure people that come through here know that this is not something we're going to tolerate."

By Monday afternoon, the banners — some bearing the phrase "Everyone is welcome here" — were flying at several homes along Dickel Street. A brand-new rainbow flag whipped in the afternoon breeze outside Nolan's home.

The flag is more than a celebration of who he is. He described it as a symbol for everyone who might be struggling to show who they are.

"I remember what it was like to not be comfortable showing who I am," he said. "Having the flag up is a way to let people know you can be who you are. You can show it."

He added, "This won't deter us."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.