WESTFIELD, NJ — Support for the LGBTQ community was on full display in Westfield Wednesday as some 200 people gathered in front of the municipal building, where town officials raised the Pride flag and then walked to a rainbow crosswalk in the center of town.

The event in recognition of LGBTQ Pride Month marks the second time the town has raised the Pride flag after doing so for the first time in 2019 but skipping the gathering last year due to the pandemic.

“All people deserve to live with dignity and respect free from fear and violence and protected against discrimination regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle, reading from a proclamation before hoisting the flag.

While the nation has made strides in recent decades toward equity for LGBTQ people, Brindle said, “We are not truly equal until everyone is afforded the same rights and opportunities.”

Following the flag raising, community members carrying rainbow flags, many dressed in bright shirts walked  with a police escort to the recently repainted and seal-coated rainbow crosswalk at Quimby Street where they took photos and dined on rainbow cookies donated by Bovella’s and served by the food service Wonder.

At the corner of Central Avenue and East Broad Street, people waved Pride flags and cheered through an open second-floor window.

At the crosswalk, one boy, who posed for photos with the mayor, held up a sign saying, “It’s not a sin to be LGBTQ but it’s a sin to hate,” while his sister held a sign saying, “Love is love.”

Morgan Balaban, 12, of Westfield, who was among the many youths on hand for the event, pointed to the spirit of inclusion the rainbow crosswalk communicates.

“When you come into this town, you see the crosswalk, you know that they’re with you,” Balaban said. “You know that you’re not alone.”

In 2020, Westfield High School students painted the design. And a recent repainting made that design a permanent fixture. The Ward brothers, owners of the James Ward Mansion in Downtown Westfield, had sponsored the crosswalk's refinishing.

“I feel that Westfield is a very open-minded town. It’s very inclusive, and it’s a great place” said James Ward. “I love to see this turnout.”

Watch video of the flag raising here: 

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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