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Fort Macleod RCMP investigating second incident targeting LGBTQ community

Fort Macleod RCMP say they are investigating the burning of a Pride flag in the southern Alberta community, an incident they believed happened only hours after the Empress Theatre was damaged during a drag show

RCMP said they received reports of mischief at Centennial Park in Fort Macleod, located about 170 kilometres south of Calgary, on Saturday, where five male suspects were burning the Pride flag. Police say the flag pole was also broken, but they do not know how that happened.

Earlier that night, two youths leaked hunter and marten lure oil — a strong-scented liquid used to attract animals — onto the floor of the town’s historic, 112-year-old theatre. 

“In general, it has been kind of a rallying cry,” said Colin Walmsley, a member on the Fort Macleod Pride committee.

“We’ve seen this rising tide of transphobic and anti-drag sentiment and it’s something that our community can rally around.”

He added: “It shows the fears and the trials that Queer people in small towns, small rural towns…have to deal with on a daily basis.”

A sign is pictured.
The Empress Theatre has been closed after it was damaged while hosting a drag show on Saturday, (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Concerns surrounding the security and safety of people who were going to take part in Pride celebrations this year were already at a high even before the incidents.

Denise Joel, the board chair of the Empress Theatre — where the first incident occurred — previously told CBC News that there was “concerning language” and “threats” circulating through social media channels ahead of the planned activities.

She said organizers had to ensure that there was increased security throughout the day and evening.

Steasha Donahue, a board member with the Empress Theatre Society, said she’s also seen a growing trend against the LGBTQ community.

“There certainly has been a rising sentiment among a few that have been expressing their distaste, their opposition, if you will, toward LGBTQ events,” she said.

“Attacking the Empress over a difference in beliefs is really inappropriate … it’s a sad reflection on this community.”

Investigations into both incidents are ongoing, RCMP said. 

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