Co-owner Sam Joyall works at the counter behind a display of Pride flags that are being given away Friday at the The Rusticators Emporium on Water Street in downtown Hallowell. EqualityMaine donated the flags following the recent thefts of at least four Pride flags in the city. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — The LGBTQ community is showing resilience following the theft of at least four Pride flags in Hallowell over the last week.

EqualityMaine, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, recently donated 100 Pride flags to distribute in and around the city, something the organization said has helped rally support in the wake of similar attacks on Pride flags in Skowhegan and South Portland.

The flags are available for free and can be picked up at The Rusticators Emporium, an antiques store at 151 Water St. in Hallowell.

A double-sided flag, with the Transgender Pride image on one side and the classic rainbow Pride image on the other, hangs from a light pole Friday on Second Street in downtown Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The donation came about after the Hallowell Pride Alliance reached out to EqualityMaine to discuss building support in the community after reports of flags being stolen from two residences, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine building and the Harlow Gallery. Drew said EqualityMaine happened to have about 100 extra Pride flags on hand, adding that they almost always have extra flags to donate.

“We were excited that they wanted to do that,” said Gia Drew, executive director of EqualityMaine. “And we were really happy that we had some flags in stock so that we wouldn’t have to go out and purchase them and wait for them to get delivered or anything like that.”

Seeing an abundance of flags in a community sends a good message, especially to people who may still be in the closet and don’t feel safe coming out, Drew said.


“LGBTQ Pride flags offer a symbol of acceptance, celebration and protection to many of us within the LGBTQ community,” added Alex AuCoin of the Hallowell Pride Alliance. “Many members of the LGBTQ community, we have experienced harassment, discrimination and even physical violence in response to our identities. Because of that, when flags are stolen or vandalized, some may feel a sense of threat to their personal safety.”

As of Friday, Sam Joyall, who c0-owns The Rusticators Emporium with his wife, Lexi, said they’ve given out “a few flags” so far but hope that once the word gets out, more people will take some over the weekend.

City Councilor Maureen AuCoin and state Rep. Charlotte Warren also helped coordinate the effort.

Hallowell police arrested and charged Caleb Braginton-Hoyt, 28, of Augusta on Sunday night for the alleged theft of three Pride flags in the city after a resident caught him stealing one from her Second Street residence.

Braginton-Hoyt sped off, damaging street signs and his vehicle before eventually pulling over for the police. At the stop, officers found stickers in his vehicle with a Polish phrase that loosely translates to “LGBT-free zone” and a crossed-out image of the Pride flag’s rainbow stripes. According to Hallowell police Chief Scott MacMaster, Braginton-Hoyt said the flags “just weren’t right” when questioned about his actions.

The case was initially referred to the Office of the Maine Attorney General, which handles civil rights violations and prosecutes hate crimes, but the office is not pursuing an investigation into the incident as a hate crime. The case will instead be investigated at the local level.


A pair of Pride flags are displayed Friday at the The Rusticators Emporium on Water Street in downtown Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Hallowell police department did not immediately return a call seeking an update to the investigation on Friday. It is unclear whether police have found the person responsible for the theft of the Pride flag outside the Harlow Gallery.

Joyall said the most common reaction to the incidents that he has seen online is that people don’t believe it represents Hallowell.

“It’s a very, very welcoming town here in Hallowell,” Joyall said. “We were wonderfully excited to see the turnout for the Pride festival back in June. It was just a very happy day here in town, so obviously anybody who we’ve seen react to it has been disappointed more so that this had to happen.”

Both AuCoin and Drew said that giving away more flags will help show that Hallowell is an accepting community.

“Let’s not let the hateful actions outshine our welcoming city,” said AuCoin.

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