Man accused of attempted vandalism - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Man accused of attempted vandalism at Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center

By Jamel Major - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis police have arrested a man they say set a flag pole on fire outside the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Investigators said Ross Burton, 23, has been charged with aggravated assault and vandalism.  According to police, early Wednesday morning, an officer spotted Burton and another man in front of the center.  

"The first thing that went through my head was here we go again," said Will Batts, executive director of the Center. "A few weeks ago, we had somebody tear down a billboard we put up for National Coming Out Day, so it seems to be a pattern."

As the officers watched, one of the men set fire to a rope on a flag pole in front of the building.

"I assume that their intent was to burn the flag, and as everybody knows, flag burning is a very symbolic act.  It's an act of hatred and intolerance," Batts said.

According to police, when officers approached the suspects, they began fighting with the officers.  Two of the officers received minor scratches and bruises.

"They were obviously determined and obviously didn't want to be caught, and so they fought with the police officers, which is a little frightening actually," Batts said.

The suspects then took off. One of the men got away, but officers later captured Burton.  While authorities have not classified the incident as a hate crime, Batts said his organization is determined to fight for equality.  

"There's still a lot of people in the community that don't like us and want us to be quiet, or hidden, or not be so open about the fact that we're proud to be gay or lesbian," he said.

Anyone with information that could help police catch the other suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (901) 528-CASH.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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