CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren said he's disappointed after a rainbow-painted Pride bench in Forest Hill Park was vandalized.
"My heart hurts seeing the kind of negativity and hostility that can be the response by some people in our community to really a symbol of acceptance and love," Seren said.
The vandals painted over the bright bench with green and black.
"We will not submit, we will not allow this kind of hostility and bigotry, homophobia to get in the way of us continuing to send the message to people in Cleveland Heights that all are welcome here," Seren said.
Seren told 3News the city installed the benches in all its major parks to publicly symbolize inclusion and diversity within the community.
"We created those benches because we know that there are members of our community who we love that are under attack," Seren said. "And we want to let them know that in our motto, all are welcome here."
Some resident of the city agreed.
"They're trying to be inclusive, include everybody, the whole community, it shouldn't be a problem," said Leon Pickney.
The city removed the bench to repaint and replace it, and send a message to the vandals that hate isn't welcome in the city.
"Resistance in the face of oppression has been going on as long as humans have been in existence, and still we are dealing with some of the exact same things that we have been dealing with for a long time," said Kirby Broadnax.
Broadnax lives nearby in Cleveland, and said she comes to Cleveland Heights often. She called the crime a travesty and shared her perspective.
"Other black friends of mine have had experiences where they have not felt included," Broadnax said, citing times where she and her friends have been treated differently in local shops in Cleveland Heights.
The city said police are investigating the vandalism and will determine if it is a hate crime.
"The LGBTQ community is an important part of our Cleveland Heights community, and we won't stand for this," Seren said.
Broadnax encouraged the city to consider more of a long-term solution as opposed to legal action or a fine.
"Its an opportunity to engage in dialogue, to really understand what was going on underneath that behavior for there to be some understanding built around the impact of that behavior," Broadnax said.