Bellmore residents arrived at the Long Island Rail Road station on Tuesday to find a torn poster, marred by a large hole obscuring what it previously promoted. The poster, on the station’s platform, advertised the LBGT Network’s “Pridestock” — an annual Long Beach event — in a rainbow of colors.
The posters by its side remained undamaged. David Kilmnick, the LGBT Network’s president and CEO, came to the Bellmore LIRR station Tuesday afternoon to denounce what he called an act of hatred.
“This was more than vandalism,” Kilmnick told reporters. “This is hate. This was meant to send a message: Don’t come to Pride Week.”
The Network discovered the torn poster after a resident shared a picture of it on Twitter. It was the third act of vandalism against the LGBT Network in two months, Kilmnick said, with the others occurring in Patchogue.
“I’m telling Town of Hempstead residents, ‘Do not be intimidated by this,’” said Town Supervisor Laura Gillen. “We’re here to send the message that hate crimes will not be tolerated.”
The incident follows a recent uptick in hate crimes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, such acts have increased 17 percent nationwide since President Trump was elected in 2016. In the New York metropolitan region — which, in addition to Long Island, includes New York City and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut — the increase is 30 percent.
“The poster had only gone up on May 22,” Kilmnick said. “To me, there is no question that this was not an accident.”
Kevin Smith, deputy commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department, said that an investigation was under way. “We will do everything that we can do — view camera footage, work with the MTA — that’ll lead to the person responsible,” he said.
While it cannot be officially ruled a hate crime until the investigation is completed, Smith added, Kilmnick and Gillen were firm on the intent behind the vandalism.
The MTA Police are also investigating the matter, Gillen said.
In the past, Town of Hempstead LGBT events have also been the focus of acts of hatred, Gillen added. The vandalism also occurred as the Network is set to open a new center — a resource for LGBT people — in Hauppauge this week.
“This will not stop Pride Week,” Gillen said. In the coming days, the LGBT Network will replace the poster, Kilmnick said, noting, “When we’re attacked, the entire community is attacked. We will not go back in the closet.”
Pridestock, also known as Pride on the Beach, is set for June 21-23 in Long Beach. Visit LIPride.org for more information.