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When pride flags were taken from a Utah home, the neighborhood stepped up with their own decorations

Utah house pride
Posted at 10:55 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 06:46:41-04

MURRAY, Utah — A raft full of kids raced down a Slip 'N Slide, screams filling the air.

Bubbles poured out of a machine, piling up along the slide, and at the end. The kids disappeared into the white, foamy cloud. The raft came to a stop, and one by one, each child popped up, laughing and covered in foam.

A group of parents stood nearby, watching the fun. They banded together to create a neighborhood bubble Slip 'N Slide, to help all the youngsters beat the heat.

It's clear the tight-knit group in Murray loves collaborating for the sake of their kids.

Naomi Howa, one of those parents, was telling a story to the group as they stood next to the pile of bubbles.

"We ended up filing a police report," she said. She was catching them up on the latest neighborhood event-- something she and her neighbors caught on camera late Monday night.

"They parked here, and then... one went over to Rachel’s and two came here," Howa said. "One of them snagged the big banner... and then one of them grabbed the flag, and then they ran all back to the car and took off."

Surveillance video shows thieves hitting a few of the homes, stealing pride flags hanging from porches.

Again.

"It's been hit a couple of times," neighbor Jennifer Auwerda said. "We've put the flags up and in the middle of the night, some teenagers come and rip them down."

The first time it happened, Howa said, they figured it was a one-time thing. But then it happened a second time. And then a third.

"It definitely feels like we're being targeted. A little bit of having the house get hit so repeatedly, and it's disheartening," Howa said.

The neighbors were disheartened, considering the flags were flying for one of their own — 13-year-old Bridget Huddlestone, Howa's nonbinary teenager.

"And we just wanted to band together as a community to show our love and support to Bridget," Auwerda said.

Bridget came out to their family last year, and since then has received a lot of love from their family and neighborhood. That part has been great, Bridget said.

"It felt really good being able to be like, 'Oh my family supports me,'" they said.

That good feeling extended to being able to celebrate Pride Month for the first time this year. Bridget hung a pride flag in front of their family's home in early June.

But soon after, that flag disappeared.

So, Howa ordered another to hang up and other neighbors joined in with more flags.

Then, those flags disappeared, from Bridget's home and several others.

Undeterred, they hung up a third round of flags all over the neighborhood.

Those are the flags that went missing on Monday night. Video evidence showing a person or a group of people running around the neighborhood, ripping the flags down home-by-home. They drove up in a car and drove away after the snatch-and-dash incident.

"It definitely didn't feel too good. Like, 'Oh someone's trying to like go out of their way to make my day worse,'" Bridget said. "It's just weird."

Howa called the police after the person who tore down one of the flags damaged the area of the porch to which the flag was secured. The Murray Police Department confirmed that the incident may be investigated as a hate crime. They're hoping to identify who is going around repeatedly stealing the flags.

Despite being targeted three times, Bridget and her neighbors aren't letting their spirits down.

The parents are doing what they do best: Banding together for the kids.

Around the neighborhood, several other homes are waving new pride flags, with rainbow pinwheels spinning in the grass. Bridget's porch columns are wrapped in rainbow paper, and a giant rainbow "PRIDE" banner hangs above the door.

"There's a new flag being handed to us from one neighbor, and a potted plant from another neighbor with rainbows all on it," Howa said. "It just escalated from there."

"Jen, our neighbor, went crazy. She was like buying flags handing them out to people," Bridget said.

Auwerda bought over 60 pinwheels and 20 flags to distribute.

Bridget is now surrounded by an even bigger display of love and support.

"It should be a time to just like be yourself without being feared of being judged," Bridget said.

"And we love that message," Howa said, "And that's why we celebrate Pride."

This story was originally published by Lauren Steinbrecher on Scripps station KSTU in Salt Lake City, Utah.