Police are investigating reports that a rainbow pride flag was stolen from a religious center on Virginia Tech’s campus for the third time in two weeks and that it was most recently replaced by two Confederate flags.
The Blacksburg Police Department confirmed to The Hill that it was looking into a larceny report from the Wesley Center, a Methodist campus ministry group on Virginia Tech’s campus.
In a Saturday Facebook post, the Wesley Center said that early that morning, a pride flag hanging outside its building had been torn down and replaced with one Confederate flag in the front of the building and another one in the back.
The center, which said that the removal of its pride flags has “been an ongoing issue,” called the incident a “hate crime” that “goes against all that we believe.”
“We want our LGBTQ+ community to know that we will always love, support, and embrace you with open arms,” the center said, along with photos showing blurred images of the Confederate flag where the pride flag had previously hung.
The new flag hung above two benches outside the center, one painted in rainbow colors and the other bearing the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“Wesley will always work to be a safe and affirming place for everyone,” the group added in its post.
The center urged individuals to “reach out if you need to process or talk about this event with anyone,” noting that “this active hate can be traumatic and triggering for many.”
The group also asked community members to contact the local police department with any information on the incident.
Bret Gresham, the center's campus minister, told NBC that the Wesley Center has for years displayed a pride flag and kept extras on hand in case they needed to be replaced.
Gresham explained that the Friday incident was just the latest “escalation,” adding that the school’s LGBT students were "hurt, saddened and scared" to see their pride flag replaced with a symbol considered by many to have racist and discriminatory connotations.
“My No. 1 concern is the students and making sure they feel they have a safe environment to come, to live out their faith and be affirmed in who they are,” Gresham told NBC.
The local police department said in a press release shared with The Hill that the case had been assigned to the force’s criminal investigations unit and is "an ongoing investigation."
"The Blacksburg Police Department takes all matters involving intimidation seriously and will investigate this matter diligently and expeditiously," the statement added.
Updated 5:02 p.m.