By Lorna Luniewski ~ For Maria O’Leary of Corneille Estates recognizing June as Pride month was as natural for she and her family as the Fourth of July decorations that will now fill her front yard. Sadly, not everyone seemed to be supportive of her Pride decorations, and sometime between the night of June 15 and the early morning of June 16, her flags were ripped off pylons and stolen along with a Pride Lives Here sign. As O’Leary explained, the decorations were on big wooden pylons, secured with u-shaped nails, and waist/chest height; not easily removed.
“My neighbor called me in the morning to let me know,” O’Leary said. “Obviously I was sickened and freaked out. Even here [on Fire Island] there is work to be done. LGBTQ rights are not secure.”
While walking around with her son looking for the stolen items, they met two officers from Suffolk County Marine Police and explained what happened. The policemen rode around looking for the items, and two hours later showed up at O’Leary’s home explaining this would be classified as a hate crime and informing her that a SCPD detective would be contacting her. “Three hours later he was at my door, and he has called me at least three times with updates.” As of this writing, no suspects have been found but police are still looking through available camera footage, according to O’Leary.
Not to be deterred, the O’Leary family replaced the Pride flags and the sign, and once again they were removed, although this time just thrown on the lawn not taken. “We now have a camera and tons more decorations,” O’Leary said. “I will be decorating for July 4 and I am interested to see if anything happens.”
O’Leary was asked by police if she thought this was a hate crime. “I can’t know what is in someone’s heart,” she said. “But no matter what, it is hurtful.”
Support from her neighbors and the community have been positive, with many messages of support on the Ocean Beach Bulletin Board after O’Leary posted about the incident.
“Terrible. There’s no escape from hate and ignorance – not even on our beautiful little sandbar…” said Billy Bloom’s post.
“This is just heartbreaking and I am soo sorry. Last fall there was vandalism to a Black Lives Matter banner and now this…so much hate in this little town. I stand with you!” Jayne Friedberg Litoff wrote.
This isolated incident cannot overshadow the positive, O’Leary explained. “Fire Island and Ocean Beach are welcoming, affirming communities,” she said. “This was hurtful and disappointing. The takeaway is we can’t be complacent. While much progress has been made [in LGBTQ rights and equality], there are people who don’t get it.”
Pride decorations at the O’Leary household in Corneille Estates – before, after, then replaced decorations on the property.
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