SALEM — More than 100 enthusiastic supporters cheered Sunday as the region’s largest LGBTQ newspaper unveiled a new distribution rack just days after vandals destroyed a Rainbow Times box in a targeted explosion.
The crowd gathered on Essex Street Sunday included local officials, senior staff of the publication, and many members of the public. Participants stood beneath billowing rainbow flags and declared that they would not stand for such hateful gestures in their storied city.
“We know what happened here in 1692,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said, referring to the witch hysteria that is a crucial part of the city’s identity. “As a community we hold that at a very high value. We will never allow that to happen again, and that’s when we come together, we stand strong.”
Salem police have said they believe the Aug. 23 explosion may be a hate crime.
At the event Sunday, Police Chief Mary Butler said State Police have confirmed that fireworks were used in the attack.
Butler said police are following tips but urged residents to come forward if they have information.
“If anyone hears anything, please let us know. We will be following this very diligently,” Butler said. Police are offering a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the suspects’ capture.
A video released by police shows seven people, dressed in dark clothing, lingering near the box and running away as it explodes.
On Sunday night, Rebecca and Jason Cabral brought their golden retriever, Liberty, as they came to show their support. As Salem residents, they were distressed when they heard the news.
“This is something we need to bring awareness to,” said Rebecca Cabral. “We can not allow fear to take over.”
Sharon and George Beeler, of Lynn, stood to listen to the speakers before heading to a dinner reservation.
“I’m outraged,” Sharon Beeler said. She said she worked in Salem for several years and was heartened by the response at Sunday’s event.
“I’m so happy, so thrilled, and so thankful all these people showed up.”
Nicole LaShomb, editor-in-chief of the Rainbow Times, said before the event that the gathering is about more than her publication.
“This attack was an attack on the entire community,” she said. “I think in general Salem has felt disillusioned at what has taken place. We will not stand for it.”
LaShomb said the publication never considered abandoning the spot where the destroyed box had been. Police took it away as evidence after the explosion.
Its replacement came quickly.
“When we saw that empty space, we knew we could not allow that,” LaShomb said.
City Councilor David W. Eppley of Ward 4, also spoke at the event, reading “Still I Rise,” Maya Angelou’s ode to perseverance through oppression.
“We would like to reiterate that the LGBT community, that I happen to be a member of, are not going to let some vigilantes . . . who operate on fear . . . take a toll on our city,” he said before the gathering.
“We’ve turned the page on doing witch hunts,” he said. “Salem is no place for hate.” He added that Salem has been the host of the North Shore Pride parade and festival for the past five years.
Dutchess Gigi Gill, a member of the LGBT community who proclaims herself the “Official Queen of Salem,” said before the event that she remains defiant, but a bit sad about what happened.
“We are going to let everyone know that Salem, Mass., is not stopping just because of seven people that have hate in their heart,” she said.
Later, Gill implored anybody with information to speak up.
“Just like on the subway, if you see something, say something,” she said at the event. “We want you to participate. You’re all deputies now.”Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.