Signs around a construction site for what's been called the first LGBTQ-friendly senior affordable housing project in New England were vandalized with threatening graffiti over the weekend, drawing quick condemnation from civic leaders.
The messages in black spray paint were left on signs on the security fence around the former school in Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood, according to LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc., the nonprofit behind the 74-unit complex known as The Pryde. The project that broke ground last month is expected to welcome its first residents in late 2023.
Gretchen Van Ness, executive director of LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc., doesn't live far from the construction site and said she started getting emails about the vandalism from neighbors out walking their dogs at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
"We've received such widespread support in the neighborhood and we've really been welcomed," she said. "This is not how the majority of people in Hyde Park feel."
The vandalism was reported to Boston police just before 11 a.m. Sunday, a department spokesperson said Monday. The matter was referred to the department's civil rights unit, Officer Andre Watson said. There had been no arrests as of Monday morning.
In response to the graffiti, about 100 people, including Mayor Michelle Wu, attended an afternoon rally at which the vandalism was covered by signs of support, including one that read "Being Gay isn't a Choice. Hate is."
Wu called the vandalism "pathetic."
"Hate & acts of vandalism will not be tolerated at the Pryde — or anywhere in Boston," she tweeted.
Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden promised to hold the perpetrator accountable.
"This cannot stand. My office will prosecute threats to the LGBTQ+ community wherever and whenever they occur."
Van Ness was heartened by the show of support.
"You have to stand up to bullies, and you have to stand up to these cowards," she said. "You cannot let them have the last word. We feel anger and we feel despair, but to have people stand with us and say they feel anger and they feel despair makes the burden so much lighter."