Community shows strength after defacement of Pride event posters

Pride in the Park is planned for June 15 at Mercerdale Park.

Islander Middle School students feel the community should maximize its focus on celebrating the city’s Pride in the Park event following the recent defacement of three posters publicizing the June 15 gathering at Mercerdale Park.

On the morning of May 13, Jaymee Lundin, one of the event’s planners, spotted a transphobic sticker on one of the posters at the corner of Southeast 68th Street and Island Crest Way. Later, similar stickers were slapped onto two more posters and one on the pergola at Mercerdale Park. Also particularly disturbing, Lundin said, was a swastika image created out of Pride flags — which symbolize love and inclusion — within the sticker.

“I was surprised, I was hurt, I was very saddened and upset for the community. Knowing that a neighbor would do this was really pretty upsetting,” said Lundin, who currently serves as co-vice president of the Mercer Island High School PTSA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. She’s also part of the PRIDE+ community group, which consists of families and allies of LGBTQIA+ kids and people in the community.

The art posters — one featuring a family holding hands and another of a dog in costume — were three of seven signs that were placed around Mercer Island during the second week of May.

Lundin filed a report with police, who confirmed that the defacement is considered a hate crime, and apprised the Mercer Island School District superintendent and principals of the situation. She’s planning on meeting with a Mercer Island City Councilmember this Friday (May 17).

“Everyone’s on the same page in terms of feeling very supportive of this event and also appalled by what happened,” said Lundin, who added that she isn’t aware of anyone witnessing the defacement.

While members of the Pride event planning committee met with some Islander Middle School students, Lundin was heartbroken to see their upset faces upon hearing of the defacement. Following some moments of silence, the students strongly spoke up regarding what direction to take the unfortunate situation.

“They have a lot of wisdom and they’re like, ‘You know what? We’re going to focus on celebrating.’ We are so lucky to live in this community that is loving and supportive by and large,” said Lundin, adding that’s what she heard from the students.

Everyone hopes to garner an even bigger turnout for the Pride event and show an abundance of support after what occurred, Lundin said.

Robin Li, vice president of the Mercer Island PTA Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, told the Reporter: “In my mind, Pride and Fourth of July are tied together, moments to honor and celebrate freedom of expression, self-determination and joy in community. We owe such a debt to LGBTQ+ activism and culture, and the historical legacies of the Pride movement that allow us all to be more free, from body positivity to families that we choose to increased gender equity.”

Members of the planning committee give utmost thanks to the positivity that shines through from their sponsors at Island Books and Pagliacci, the city of Mercer Island and other community partners such as Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, Mercer Island Visual Arts League, Congregational Church on Mercer Island and more.

“This is, of course, very much a celebration of our LGBTQIA+ community, but it’s also about celebrating all of us — and what makes us different, also what makes us awesome. In that spirit, I just really wanted to encourage folks to also attend the Juneteenth celebration on June 19. We’ll all certainly be there, and all of these things are connected and important,” Lundin said.

Islander Middle School seventh-grade teacher Litza Griffin-Johnson, who has been helping to plan the Pride in the Park celebration, noted about the importance of the event: “Pride is so powerful because it is two things at once. On one hand, it is a determined protest against fear, hate, bigotry and close-mindedness. At the same time, it is a joyful celebration of community, resilience and love.”

Rev. Jennifer Castle, pastor of Congregational Church on Mercer Island, added that church members eagerly await their joyful participation in the Pride event again this year.

“We know that faith communities have often been a source of harm for the queer community, and we are determined to counter that message with love, affirmation and welcome,” Castle said. “This is not a stance we take in spite of our faith, but because of our faith. It feels especially important this year in the wake of increased threats and hate crimes targeting those in the queer community.”

Learn more

PRIDE+ and the city of Mercer Island will present a Pride in the Park celebration from 2-5 p.m. on June 15 at Mercerdale Park. The all-ages event will feature a unicorn race, RuPAWS puppy parade and costume contest, yard games, face painting, a food truck, ice cream truck, live music by a 1980s cover band, 88.9 KMIH The Bridge and several community partners will have booths to share information and resources.