Vandals attack Half Moon Bay LGBTQ center, officials say

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Monday March 11, 2024
Share this Post:
Officials at the Coast Pride center in Half Moon Bay reported incidents of alleged anti-LGBTQ vandalism last week. Photo: Courtesy Coast Pride
Officials at the Coast Pride center in Half Moon Bay reported incidents of alleged anti-LGBTQ vandalism last week. Photo: Courtesy Coast Pride

Officials at the Coast Pride Center in Half Moon Bay reported alleged anti-LGBTQ vandalism after a Progress Pride flag was removed and a rock was thrown through a window of the office.

According to an email sent to supporters Friday, March 8, the alleged incidents occurred overnight between Monday, March 4, and Tuesday, March 5. A report was made to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office last Tuesday at around 10 a.m., Cameron Zeller, operations director for Coast Pride, stated in an email to the Bay Area Reporter.

The email announcement stated that two people were involved. The center is located at 711 Main Street in Half Moon Bay.

"Thankfully, no person experienced physical harm or injury during or as a result of the incident," the email stated. "Two people cut and removed our Progress Pride flag, tore down our rainbow bunting, kicked and cut our 'No home for hate' lawn sign, smeared mud on our wooden trans heart, threw our painted rocks onto the sidewalk and street, and threw a rock into one of our front windows.

"We have cleaned up the visible damage, replaced our Progress Pride flag, and are working on getting the window replaced," the email added. "We are also working closely with our group facilitators to make sure everyone is being supported, has space to process the incident during group sessions, and continues to feel safe at the center."

Gretchen Spiker, director of communications for the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, stated that the department is aware of "two incidents that took place recently at CoastPride in the City of Half Moon Bay."

"At this time, it is believed that the incidents were committed by juveniles," Spiker wrote in an email. "Because of this, there is limited information that we can share at this time. We do, however, want to offer reassurance to the community that these are believed to be isolated incidents and we will do all we can to hold the perpetrators responsible."

Spiker did not respond to a follow-up message about any other incident or if the sheriff's office is investigating the case as a hate crime.

After the publication of this article, Coast Pride's Zeller stated that an incident occurred in late February where someone stole the organization's Pride flag and tore down the "No Home for Hate" sign.

Zeller said the organization would have no further comment.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Coast Pride opened its center in June 2021. It fosters connections among coastal San Mateo County residents from Pescadero to Pacifica. That year the center also received $35,000 in funding from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

The vandalism incident at Coast Pride is the latest to occur on the Peninsula. As the B.A.R. reported last summer, a rainbow banner was vandalized at the Congregational Church of Belmont in that San Mateo County city.

Belmont police told the B.A.R. at the time that they were investigating the case as a hate crime.

The Reverend Jim Mitulski, a gay man who serves as pastor at the Belmont church, which is part of the United Church of Christ denomination, said at the time that the incident was not surprising. (Mitulski once served as pastor at the LGBTQ Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco in the Castro neighborhood for many years.)

"The vandalism at the Congregational Church of Belmont is disappointing but not surprising," stated Mitulski. "As a gay pastor in the United Church of Christ, I've noticed a marked increase in hostility toward the LGBTQ community of late. At CCB, we remain deeply committed to LGBTQ inclusion and equality in church and society.

After the initial publication of this article online, Mitulski responded that he has not heard anything regarding the incident at his church. He added that the church replaced the Pride banner and has not had problems with it.

"I'm so sorry this happened in Half Moon Bay," he stated.

But Mitulski added that the vandalism incident has left an impact. The church recently hung up a banner stating that "love demands a ceasefire," referring to the Israel-Hamas war. Some in the congregation were skittish about drawing more attention to the church, he stated, attributing those feelings to the vandalism of the Pride banner. The peace banner has been up for about a week with no incidents, he added.

He also noted that this type of vandalism is rare in San Mateo County.

Last May, Palo Alto police opened a hate crime investigation into the vandalism of a Pride flag flown by the city's First Lutheran Church.

A church employee had found it ripped down and reported the incident to police in the Santa Clara County city on May 16, as the Mercury News reported.

Meanwhile, Coast Pride officials stated they were moving ahead with their mission as a welcoming organization for all.

"Looking forward, we are continuing our long-term work of creating a coastside that supports and celebrates people of all sexual orientations and gender identities," Coast Pride's email stated. "We do this by training teachers, school staff, parents and caregivers, and the wider community on how to create safe and affirming environments. We do this by collaborating with schools and school districts to write policies that protect queer and trans youth. We do this by partnering with faith leaders to create affirming spiritual spaces. We do this by supporting the parents and caregivers who are caring for their Queer and Trans children every day. We do this by celebrating queer joy during June Pride Month, at every support group session, and every day we are still here."

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

This article has been updated with comments from the Reverend Jim Mitulski.

Updated, 3/13/24: This article has been updated with comments from the sheriff's office.

Updated, 3/19/24: This article has been updated with additional information on an incident that occurred in late February.

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!