A local LGBTQ advocacy group is offering free rainbow flags after a family's own pride banner was burned outside of their home over the weekend.
In a statement Tuesday morning, the North Charleston-based Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) announced they are "offering rainbow flags to community members who wish to display a flag in solidarity with the affected family and LGBTQ community."
The move stems from an incident in West Ashley on Sat. April 13 that police say they are investigating as a possible hate crime.
A resident of the Shadowmoss neighborhood told a Charleston police officer that he stepped outside of his home on Sunday morning and noticed that his family's 3-by-5 foot rainbow flag was burned and lying on the driveway. The flag had flown from a pole in front of the house for about three months, according to an incident report.
The flag had the word "peace" written across in white lettering.
Another resident at the home wrote about the incident on a neighborhood Facebook page Sunday morning.
"This makes me sad on many levels but concerned that someone because of their hateful beliefs would come on our property to burn a symbol of peace and love, especially when our three small children are in the home," the person wrote, according to an AFFA press release.
On Tuesday afternoon, Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said the department is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, and that any suspect or suspects may be charged under the city's new hate crime law
South Carolina does not have a hate crime law, but FBI statistics showed a 17 percent increase in hate crimes nationwide in 2017 compared to the previous year. About 17.4 percent of those were based on sexual orientation or gender identity bias, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"Incidents like this flag burning can unfortunately contribute to a culture of fear within the LGBTQ community," said AFFA executive director Chase Glenn in a statement. "It reminds us of the possibility that we are living among people who harbor hate against us."
The organization said there has been an outpouring of support after news of the incident spread, with people wanting to fly their own rainbow flags in solidarity with the family.
"In response, AFFA has announced that the organization will provide rainbow and transgender pride flags to anyone in the tri-county area who will commit to displaying the flag on their residence or business," the organization said.
Those willing to display a rainbow flag and/or a transgender pride flag at their homes or businesses can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.