Transient Arrested for Allegedly Burning Rainbow Flag in Berkeley

An East Bay community has rallied around an LGBTQ center where a man burned a Rainbow Flag and punched a volunteer.

Workers at Pacific Center, which opened in Berkeley 44 years ago and was the third of its kind in the nation, said they have never seen anything like what occurred.

Police said a transient burned a Rainbow Flag Friday morning then punched a volunteer receptionist in the face. The volunteer attempted to stop the transient before being punched.

"These are times that things like this are happening," said Leslie Ewing, director for the Pacific Center for Human Growth.

Ewing believes the current political climate is at least partly to blame for the incident. She said since the presidential inauguration last November there have been more than 200 crimes at community centers across the country.

"Everything from defacing buildings to setting fire," Ewing said.

Ewing stopped short of saying LGBTQ community centers are specific targets.

After Friday's incident, Ewing said a passer-by was able to get a picture of the suspect and showed it to police. A short time later police arrested 23-year-old Richard Woods.

Woods was arrested on suspicion of arson, committing a hate crime and battery with bodily injury. His motive is still unknown.

Ewing said the center has received an outpouring of support and affection after the incident.

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