LGBTQ leader responds to graffiti on Perry District Pride crosswalk

Odyssey Youth Movement Executive Director Ian Sullivan said his staff found the graffiti on the rainbow crosswalk early Saturday morning.

SPOKANE, Wash. —

For the LGBTQ community – the rainbow is a symbol of acceptance, love and a safe place to be who you are.  

Saturday morning, staff at Odyssey Youth Movement found that symbol of inclusion tarnished.  

Executive director Ian Sullivan said in seeing the graffiti, anger, frustration and heartbreak quickly took over.

“Heartbreak for me comes in as someone who has worked in the LGBTQ community, but also on behalf of the LGBTQ community for years now, that you always hope and dream that progress it being made, and then, the wind gets knocked out of you with things like this,” Sullivan shared.  

He said it’s likely this act of vandalism is directed at the people the center supports. 

“It’s hard to not get the message that you are not welcomed, othered, wrong in some way because your literally gateway into this space, this neighborhood, is being defaced,” Sullivan said.

The only word Sullivan and his staff were able to make out in the graffiti was ‘No,’ written on the sidewalk nearby with an arrow pointing at the crosswalk.

Sullivan said that was the first graffiti to get cleaned up.

After some time processing his initial reaction, he said he was ready to get back to work. 

“Your act of vandalism is not going to scare us off,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to make this community more resilient and gather up and realize where our passions, resources and efforts need to go. There is still work to do, thank you for showing us that.”  

As executive director for six years, he knew he had to step up and make sure the kids and teens attending Odyssey knew they were safe and welcomed in Spokane.

“This is a space that is four walls of safety for them because eyes are on them, eyes are on the community, and we’re also working in tandem with them to make sure this isn’t the only safe space for them,” Sullivan said.

The graffiti follows another recent display of hate in the Perry district.  The rainbow crosswalk was unveiled at the June ‘Pride in Perry‘ event. At that same event, Sullivan said a group of people came with signs and attempted to spread hateful messages.   

The celebration continued, despite the animosity from the group. Sullivan said work at the center will continue in the same way.  

“it’s not going to stop us from doing what we need to do in this community,” Sullivan said.  

The rainbow crosswalk came about as a collaboration between the city of Spokane and Spokane Arts as a part of the ‘Asphalt Art‘ program.

Spokane Arts said it hopes to have the graffiti cleaned up within a week, but must obtain an obstruction permit to close the street for maintenance.  

Once Spokane Arts gets that permit, crews will begin washing the graffiti away or repainting, if needed.

Spokane Police said it is investigating graffiti on the crosswalk as malicious mischief. SPD is not calling it a hate crime, at this time, because the vandalism must meet certain criteria. 

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