U.S. Capitol Police are investigating an incident on March 15, in which a visitor to a congressional office building in Washington removed a rainbow flag hanging from the wall beside the door to the office of Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and repeatedly stepped on the flag.
The unidentified male visitor acted on his displeasure with the flag minutes after he entered Lowenthal’s office and “angrily exclaimed his belief that the Pride flag outside the office was inappropriate alongside the American flag,” according to a statement released by Lowenthal’s office.
“The man left the Congressman’s office, removed the Congressman’s Pride Flag from its holder, threw it to the ground, and proceeded to repeatedly stomp on it,” the statement says. “Other visitors in the hallway verbally reprimanded him and after he left, replaced the flag,” it says.
“They then notified the Congressman’s staff, who caught up to the man, verified he was the one who had stomped on the flag before escorting him into the custody of Capitol Police officers,” the statement states.
Eva Malecki, a spokesperson for the Capitol Police, told the Washington Blade the matter was under investigation. She said Capitol Police have a policy of not releasing additional details about ongoing investigations, including the name of an individual being investigated.
Keith Higginbotham, Lowenthal’s communications director, said the sympathetic visitors who witnessed the incident at the Cannon House Office Building told Lowenthal staff members that the attacker was visiting from North Carolina and was with his family members when the incident unfolded.
Higginbotham noted that the rainbow flag, which his office refers to as the “Pride Flag,” has been displayed outside Lowenthal’s Capitol Hill office since 2013 along with an American flag and a California state flag.
Lowenthal represents California’s 47th congressional district, which includes the city of Long Beach, located about 25 miles south of Los Angeles. He is a longtime LGBT rights supporter and has marched in LGBT Pride parades in his district beginning when he served previously as a state senator and assemblyman and as a Long Beach City Council member, Higginbotham said.
“This shocking demonstration of hate is just another example of the shadows of intolerance that have grown longer in recent days,” Lowenthal said in a statement.
“Bomb threats called into Jewish community centers, desecrations of Jewish cemeteries, hate crimes against minorities and the transgender community, and horrifically racist statements from a member of Congress,” he said in the statement. “To all our brothers and sisters who endure through these hateful acts: we stand with you, and we will continue to fight for you.”
- Lou Chibbaro Jr., Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association