Vandals destroyed a billboard featuring a gay marine in Memphis Friday night.
The billboard, one of five paid for by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC), featured an out marine with the caption “I'm gay and I protected your freedom.”
Will Batts, executive director of MGLCC, said the crime surprised him because it occurred on a heavily trafficked street just blocks from downtown Memphis and a police station.
“Although it's in an iffy lot, it's a fairly well trafficked street and being so close to the main police station downtown – a block and a half – it doesn't seem that this could have happened quickly. To completely tear down the billboard – it wasn't defaced, it wasn't shredded, it's just gone. And for that to happen on such a busy street is actually shocking to me,” Batts told On Top Magazine on Sunday.
The five billboards are part of an awareness campaign for National Coming Out Day, the October 11 event where gay men and lesbians are asked to come out to a friend, family member or co-worker.
A rally to protest the vandalism is being organized for the weekend. Expected among the speakers is Tim Smith, the Memphis-area out marine featured on the billboard.
When asked if he suspected anyone, Batts said no: “There could be a lot of possibilities but we have no idea who did it.”
MGLCC is urging the police to conduct a full investigation.
AARP Pride Information and Resources for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People, Families and Allies - AARP