Last week, while driving past a city-owned planter on the corner of 18th and H Streets in Arcata, Councilmember Emily Goldstein noticed the latest in a string of anti-LGBTQ acts in our community: Someone had cut down and removed a tree that had been decorated with hand-crafted Pride ornaments.
The ornaments — made out of popsicle sticks and painted to resemble pride flags — along with a banner reading “love, joy, peace,” were hung on the ornamental cherry tree on June 25, during a gathering held in response to the burning of a pride flag that had hung in the same planter as the tree.
“[Hanging] the ornaments on the tree was just supposed to be something small and sweet,” Goldstein, who had attended the June 25 gathering, told the Outpost this afternoon. “The whole event was very positive and very like, ‘we love the community.’”
A couple of days after the event, Goldstein was driving past and wanted to admire the decorations and discovered that there was no tree.
Goldstein immediately texted Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer about the tree’s disappearance, she said. Not only was the tree city-owned property, Goldstein said, but also the act was clearly a part of the recent “hate crimes going on in the community.”
The tree cutting follows not only the pride flag burning in Arcata, but also the recent display of an anti-LGBTQ sign in front of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ferndale, which sparked a huge community response, including the Cream City’s first ever Pride march. All three anti-LGBTQ acts occurred during Pride Month.
During tonight’s Arcata City Council meeting, the council will discuss these recent events and consider issuing a statement written by Goldstein in support of the LGBTQI+ community. Though Goldstein’s statement only addresses the acts of vandalism in Arcata, she said, all of the recent anti-LGBTQ acts in Humboldt have served as “a wakeup call that we need to do more.”
Goldstein added that she does not see the statement as any kind of solution, but hopes that it will be a part of an ongoing conversation around issues affecting the LGBTQ community.
“I am also part of the LGBTQI community, as a queer person.” Goldstein told the Outpost. “I just want to send a message that these things that happened are not OK and we’re not going to turn a blind eye. I also want to send a lot of love to my siblings in the LGBTQ community in Arcata and beyond. I hope we can work together to make Arcata a safe place for our community.”
UPDATE, 4:15 p.m.:
After the Outpost published this article, a call we made to Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer was returned. Diemer said she was dismayed by the seemingly hateful act and was also sad to lose the tree, which had been in that Arcata planter for nearly 15 years.
Diemer added that because of the value of the tree and the fact that it was owned by the City, this crime is considered felony vandalism. The incident was reported to the police department and, as far as Diemer knows, the police have found no witnesses.
The City does not know exactly when the tree was removed, but it was sometime between the night of Friday, June 25 and the morning of Sunday, June 27.
Anyone with any information on the incident is encouraged to contact the Arcata Police Department at (707) 822-2428.
“Not only is it vandalism, but there are elements that could rise to a hate crime,” Diemer said. “It certainly warrants an investigation and community support.”
Also during tonight’s council meeting, the first following the official departure of previous councilmember Sofia Pereira, the council will also select a mayor and vice-mayor to serve for the remainder of the year.
The council will also consider a timeline for returning to in-person meetings. But, at least for tonight, you will still need to attend the meeting via Zoom. You can view the full agenda and directions on how to participate here.