Southeast Finland city's pride flag stolen, burnt

A group of boys had stolen the flag hours after it had been raised at the city hall in Kouvola, southeast Finland.

Kouvola's pride flag was stolen on Saturday evening Image: Juha Huhtala

A rainbow flag that was stolen from Kouvola’s city hall on Saturday was found burnt the next day. Municipal officials raised the flag in front of the city hall in the morning as a means of participating in last Saturday’s pride event, but it was stolen the same evening. Surveillance camera footage showed three boys taking the pride symbol off the flagpole.

According to local paper Kouvolan Sanomat, the burnt remains of the rainbow flag were found outside the city hall on Sunday. Minna Acarca, service advisor of Kouvola city, told Yle that she believes the burnt flag is the same one that was stolen. The city had filed an official crime report after the theft.

The national organisation for LGBTI rights Seta has condemned the stealing and burning of the rainbow flag. According to Seta, the act incites hatred towards the LGBTI community and reinforces the sense of insecurity felt by the minority group.

A spate of rainbow flag thefts

About twenty pride events were organised in various parts of Finland this year. According to Seta, some of the events were disrupted when rainbow flags were stolen. Flags have been stolen in cities such as Kokkola, western Finland and Oulu in the northwest.

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Saturday's pride parade in Kouvola Image: Pyry Sarkiola / Yle

"Vandalising flags is a hateful and hurtful act. It is a concrete way of demonstrating that LGBTI people are not welcome in the locality," Sakris Kupila, a representative of Seta, said in a statement.

According to Seta, the number of pride events has increased over the past year, particularly in small towns which do not usually have pride-related activities.

The flag was flown only once

The rainbow flag had flown in front of the city hall in Kouvola for only six hours. It was raised at 10.00am and was stolen at around 4.10pm. It was supposed to fly in front of the city hall till 6.00pm.

The city had ordered the brand new flag specifically for the event, and it was used just once. This was the second time this year that Kouvola participated in a pride event.