Naugatuck Neighborhood Puts Up Pride Flags to Push Back Against Hate

Driving down Hillside Avenue in Naugatuck, you'll notice several pride flags. For neighbors, it's about sending a strong message of support and pushing back against hate.

"To know that someone had something so hurtful said to them was unacceptable to me," said neighbor Joan McCasland.

Neighbors are rallying around Chris Ritton-Stokes and his husband Michael. Chris tells NBC Connecticut that last week he was sitting on his back porch when someone driving by yelled a homophobic slur and continued to scream at him when he turned to look. The Stokes have a pride flag on their home.

"We live in this bubble of love and acceptance, and it pulls you back out of that. And all of a sudden I'm 15-years-old again getting picked on by the bully," said Chris.

"I said, 'What happened?' and he said, 'You won't believe what someone just said to me,'" said Michael. "I think that people often get something out of making or attempting to make other people feel less than."

After the initial shock, Chris posted on social media, calling out that driver. His neighbors noticed and came up with a plan.

"My friend Josh down the street said, 'Well let's get our own flags up in response,' said McCasland.

McCasland says her neighbor, Josh, bought several flags and handed them out so they could be displayed. Soon pride flags were up and waving along Hillside Avenue and spreading to other streets.

"Chris and Mike are great people. They do so much for this community," said neighbor John DeCampos. "We wanted to do our part, make sure we're supporting them and showing our kids, showing everyone that kindness and love will always win."

"We keep getting pictures and texts and phone calls from people all around Naugatuck saying, 'My flag is up!' 'My flag is coming!' So it's heartwarming," said Chris.

The Stokes say they know the hate speech directed at them is not how Naugatuck or their neighbors feel. They say they're not thinking about that driver. They're focused on the people around them who are reaching out.

“There are going to be people who may not like and accept you, and there are going to be people who are going to hurt you in your life. I think we can take an opportunity to acknowledge those people but not focus on them, that they don't have to have that much of an impact on your life. The people that rally around you in the time of need really are the people you should focus on," said Michael.

"You hope that people come in and know that this is a place that is loving and accepting of everyone, that this is the kind of street you want to live on," said McCasland.

The Stokes say they chose not to file a police report. They say the police chief did reach out to apologize on behalf of Naugatuck and encouraged them to contact police should they have any further issues.

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