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Co-owner of Edmonton lounge frustrated but resilient after Pride flag torn down

By Hiba Kamal-Choufi

The co-owner of an Edmonton lounge is speaking out after a Pride flag was removed from the front of his downtown business and thrown into the garbage earlier this month.

Video surveillance caught three suspects walking down 103 Street toward 102 Avenue shortly before 11 p.m. on April 2 when they stopped in front of the Evolution Wonderlounge.

One of the suspects gives another a boost in order to rip the rainbow-coloured flag off its pole. They then throw it into the trash before walking away.

“For me it’s more frustration and anger,” said Rob Browatzke, co-owner of the Evolution Wonderlounge, which was closed when it happened.

“Because this one was so explicitly at a symbol for queer pride and queer liberation. ‘Yeah, I hate that flag and I hate what it stands for. And it belongs in the garbage.’”

WATCH: Surveillance video of suspects ripping down Pride flag (courtesy: Edmonton Police Service)

The Edmonton Police Service hate crimes unit is investigating, with police calling it a “hate-motivated” crime “targeting the 2SLGBTQ+ community.” Investigators released footage of the suspects and are seeking the public’s help in identifying them.

“I guess I’m hopeful not necessarily in the way that these people are going to be identified, but if you do this to gay businesses or any business, I think someone needs to stand up and say ‘we’re not going to put up with anything, with any vandalizing happened to our spaces, especially when it’s got that kind of motivation,’” Browatzke said.

Evolution Wonderlounge says it’s not the first time the lounge has been the target of vandalism. It had its front window smashed more than once in 2022.

Browatzke is considering putting the Pride flag higher up next time so pedestrians can’t reach it.

“But you can keep tearing them down, we’ll just keep putting them back up,” he said.

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