Motorcyclists caught on video defacing a rainbow crosswalk in Missoula

Posted at 5:40 PM, Aug 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-25 19:40:04-04

(MISSOULA) On Thursday night, another round of vandalism took place at EmpowerMT’s multi-colored crosswalk, and was caught on video. A group of motorcyclists purposely stop and ‘burn out’ over the LGBTQ art installation…

Witnesses say the group continued to do damage, until several bystanders stood by to protect the crosswalk.

The Missoula Police Department is using photos and video to identify vehicles that have caused damage, and possibly potentially charge the vandals with a misdemeanor.

Nathan Gutierrez saw it happening, and doesn’t understand why the crosswalk has become such a “hot button” issue: “Leave it alone. It doesn’t matter. If you go out of your way to spend time doing burn outs across it to show off for you buddies .. it’s just dumb. Grow up. Go do some cruising and have some fun, but you don’t have to cause an underlying issues right now.”

Gutierrez has received several threats after sharing his video on social media: “I got 30 some messages so far from people. People are saying, ‘If I see you downtown, I’m going to kick your teeth in,’ and stuff like that. Just because I filmed something that is completely disrespectful and that’s the reason I filmed it.. “

Some people have raised concerns about over the crosswalk using taxpayer dollars, but EmpowerMT raised the money themselves and hired a private contractor to do the work.

EmpowerMT received permission from the city and put in a citizen request for placement assistance, and the crosswalk meets all required traffic and signage laws.

EmpowerMT Youth Programs Director Claire Michelson says the hate toward the art installation is sparking a conversation about the acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

“We know this is a form of artful expression and symbolism, but we still think that’s really powerful. Look at how much discussion this has already created and that means it’s powerful and it’s important to us,” she said.

EmpowerMT is still working out the details on how they will fix the newly installed Rainbow Crosswalk.

(AUGUST 24, 2018) EmpowerMT installed a "rainbow" crosswalk on Sunday near the Missoula Art Museum to show support for the LGBTQ community.

But just days after being installed, video shows the crosswalk being vandalized by a group of motorcyclists.

EmpowerMT says no taxpayer money was used to install the sidewalk and none is being allocated for maintenance costs.

“We did not want any of the burden to fall on our taxpayers. Our private donors and organizations covered all of the costs,” said EmpowerMT Youth Programs Director Claire Michelson.

Safety to the public was also strongly considered during the project.

“The people who helped us over at the city took safety very seriously," Michelson said. "That was definitely their first priority was making sure that it was going to be safe and it was going to be in compliance with all the regulations.”

It was a long and thought-out process which showed EmpowerMT youth leaders the ropes of municipal government and provided some valuable experience going forward.

“That was one of the most exciting parts for me was to watch our youth meet with John Engenand meet with these people from the city and have a positive experience. Doing that was so special.”

After all that hard work, repairs are already needed for a crosswalk that has only been completed for four days.

“I think this is a good reminder for people that we still are experiencing a lot of hate.”

The outpouring of community assistance might also show some LGBTQ members that they do have support from people in the Garden City.

“It’s easy to focus on the negative and the really hateful comments and acts of vandalism, but I think that we all have to keep in mind so we can keep moving forward together, that there is a lot of positive support and the more that we can focus on that the more that we can keep going.” 

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