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After vandals covered the rainbow-painted crosswalks at 10th and East Adams and East Washington streets in white paint over the weekend, District 3 City Commissioner Roy De Los Santos wasn’t surprised.
“That segment of the community that does not support the LGBTQ community is even more emboldened right now because we just elected our second gay commissioner, and so they’re looking to make a statement. I think we were expecting to see more backlash this year for anything we did related to Pride Month,” De Los Santos said Wednesday.
The Brownsville Police Department is investigating, but as of Wednesday afternoon had no suspects. The department encouraged the public to provide information about the incident through its anonymous tips line (956) 548-TIPS or 548-8477.
De Los Santos said he and recently elected District 1 City Commissioner Bryan Martinez had not been aware the crosswalks were being painted but were pleasantly surprised when they learned that personnel from the traffic department painted the two crosswalks in the rainbow colors associated with Pride Week.
“It wasn’t a surprise that they would become a target. When the vandalism happened, it wasn’t surprising at all,” he said.
De Los Santos said funds to paint the crosswalks came from funds donated to the city by Elon Musk, part of which funded the first Fridays program downtown.
“Part of that was to start up first Fridays again, so that’s why the first Fridays started up again last summer. The first Friday of every month they have a big event downtown. This month it was a Pride theme first Friday. The same fund that was used to fund first Fridays was used to fund the crosswalks,” he said.
De Los Santos also said that Brownsville has a vibrant LGBTQ community.
“Just like with any other city, you’re always going to have pockets of people who are going to want to speak out and lash out against the LGBTQ community and this is no different in Brownsville,” he said.
“Most of what we see is confined to online posts, but every now and then we see something like this. Three years ago, in 2020, which was the first year we raised the Pride flag at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the flag was stolen on the last day of the month. We’ve seen that type of mischief before, so it was only a matter f time before it happened.”
As to the vibrancy of the LGBTQ community in Brownsville, De Los Santos said it hosts events throughout the year and is becoming more active all the time.
“A 17-year-old organized a prom for the LGBTQ kids out at the Carlota Petrina Cultural Center about a month or two ago. We’re seeing more and more events pop up throughout the year, and then the LGBTQ task force has been very active. They’ve got an exhibit up right now at the George Ramirez Performing Arts Academy. They were part of the planning for the flag raising. They had a Pride pub crawl last weekend, and I know we’ve got an event tomorrow night downtown at the Whiskey Tavern,” De Los Santos said.