Robert Geddes, a 25-year-old in Boone, Iowa, was arrested Monday for allegedly leaving notes on people’s homes telling them to “burn that gay flag.” The targeted homes flew rainbow Pride flags, displayed yard signs or owned rainbow doormats.
Geddes was identified by a Ring Doorbell camera. He’s been charged with four counts of trespass with a hate crime enhancement, which would increase the penalty, and third-degree harassment.
He is now in custody at the Boone County Jail, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 2.
The police issued a press release saying, “Boone Police Officers took several complaints from residents in Boone of notes that had been taped to their doors. The victims all had flags or door mats supporting LGBTQ persons. These notes spoke in opposition of this support only and were not threatening in nature.”
Geddes’ attorney has declined to comment.
April Burch, who received one of the messages, said her child was the one to find it.
“It was upsetting for our youngest child to find it. He was worried that it meant someone would burn our house down,” she said.
Burch said that though society has changed since she was growing up and saw regular vandalism at a local, out LGBTQ man’s house, it’s clear there’s still work to be done.
“People here then had the attitude that he ‘brought it on himself’ for being outspoken in starting a local ACT-UP chapter and wearing dresses when he wanted to,” she said. “They broke his windows out and spray-painted swastikas on his property. It was horrifying. It’s not to say people aren’t still being harassed in Boone for being openly LGBTQ though. There have been incidents of children and teenagers shouting profanity and anti-LGBTQ slurs at people on the street in town here over the past few months even.”
Given that, Burch said she’s glad so many people came together to share the video and report the incidents so Geddes could be arrested.
The rainbow Pride flag was created by Gilbert Baker and put together by himself and volunteers in 1978. He did this at the suggestion of friends and colleagues in the LGBTQ community in San Francisco, including out supervisor Harvey Milk. The goal was to replace the pink triangle symbol the LGBTQ community had reclaimed from Nazi Germany.
Since then, Baker redesigned the Pride flag to make it more inclusive, and other versions of Pride flags have been created for the LGBTQ community and its many individual identities.
Baker never took sole credit for the flag’s creation.
“A true flag is not something you can really design,” he once said. “A true flag is torn from the soul of the people. A flag is something that everyone owns and that’s why they work.”
by Nikoel Hytrek