new pride banner at ames ucc

Early morning June 11, the pride banner hanging outside Ames United Church of Christ was torn down and burned in the street. The church added a new banner which has the words “God is love.”

The church’s senior minister, Eileen Gebbie, said she feels “sad and upset” in the wake of the incident.

Adolfo Martinez was charged with reckless use of fire or explosives, disorderly conduct, fifth degree criminal mischief, fifth degree theft and first degree harassment after the incident, according to Ames Police Department arrest reports.

Gebbie said the incident has not changed the congregation, but it will change Martinez’s life forever.

Martinez told police he ignited the banner, according to court documents.

Ames Police Commander Jason Tuttle said the police were called around 12:30 a.m. to Dangerous Curves because Martinez had told staff in the bar he was going to burn the bar down. Martinez was kicked out of the bar after that, Tuttle said.

“He left again and then came back with the banner and lit it on fire in the street in front of the gentlemen’s club with some lighter fluid he had,” Tuttle said.

KCCI interviewed Martinez in the wake of the incident, and asked him whether the incident was about gay people.

“Yes, yes, yes. Exactly,” Martinez said. “I burned down their pride, plain and simple.”

Martinez said he does not plan to fight the charges and is “guilty as charged,” KCCI reported.

Tuttle called that interview “bizarre”, and said the department had asked the county attorney to review the reports to determine if additional charges should be filed.

“We also had discussion about potentially referring the case on to the [federal authorities] for them to charge, because I think their code is a little bit different from Iowa code,” Tuttle said.

Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds enhanced the charge on the criminal mischief charge to a hate crime charge.

Under Iowa code, a hate crime occurs when there is: an assault in violation of individual rights, criminal mischief in violation of individual rights, and trespass in violation of individual rights; because of a person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or because of a person’s association with someone of the aforementioned categories.

Gebbie said the church had spoken with Ames Police about measures to take in the wake of the incident. She added that in the wake of the Charleston African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in 2015, the church had been working on increasing its security measures, and this incident will speed up their plans.

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