Senseless: Laura Ann Carleton was killed for flying a rainbow flag in her community (Photo: Facebook)
A California shop owner has lost her life for displaying a rainbow flag, symbolising her support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Laura Ann “Lauri” Carleton, 66, was fatally shot on 19 August at her clothing store, Mag.Pi, in Lake Arrowhead by Travis Ikeguchi, 27, after a confrontation about the pride flag.
Reports indicate that Ikeguchi made “several disparaging remarks” about the flag, followed by homophobic slurs, after which he fatally shot Carleton, a mother of nine, outside the store. Tragically, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Law enforcement soon after located Ikeguchi nearby, resulting in a gunfire exchange between him and the police. In the ensuing confrontation, Ikeguchi was shot dead by law enforcement officers.
It was discovered that the killer had regularly shared religious bigotry, and anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ posts on his social media platforms. Notably, he had posted an image of a burning rainbow flag accompanied by the question, “What to do with the flag?”
Speaking about her late mother, Ari Carleton conveyed to The New York Times: “I just want the world to remember her for who she was. And that she passed away in a place that she cherished, doing what she loved and defending something that was so important to her.”
Carleton revealed that her mother had repeatedly replaced the rainbow flag after it had been stolen in the past.
The Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ organisation lauded Carleton as “a fierce advocate for love, equality, and human rights.” It said that “her dedication to equality and her courage in flying the LGBTQ+ flag exemplify her commitment to creating a world where love knows no boundaries.”
Activists say that Carleton’s murder is a disturbing outcome of escalating anti-LGBTQ sentiments both within the US and globally stoked by conservative politicians, religious leaders and rightwing groups.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, remarked, “The tragic, targeted killing of Lauri over the Pride flag displayed at her Lake Arrowhead store was senseless and, unfortunately, part of a growing number of attacks on LGBTQ people and our allies.”
GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League have reported more than 350 anti-LGBTQ threats and attacks since June 2022 in the US.
Ellis went on to say, “No one should feel unsafe or be attacked for who they are or for simply supporting the LGBTQ community. Lauri’s murder is the latest example of how anti-LGBTQ hatred hurts everyone, whether they are LGBTQ or not.”
Prominent figures such as director Paul Feig and actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristin Davis have joined the chorus of voices condemning the hateful act of violence.