Last Wednesday, the staff of the Rainbow Project in Belfast, Northern Ireland arrived to their offices to find that robbers had broken in, stealing several laptops and damaging the office itself. The theft occurred just before Pride events begin in the capital on July 27.
The group wrote on Twitter that “It is a week and a half until Belfast Pride week and this is not what we need. We rise up, we continue.”
Morning folks. We have arrived at work this morning to find our offices broken into. It is a week and a half until Belfast Pride week and this is not what we need. We rise up, we continue. https://t.co/zcYTJa4kao @williamcrawley pic.twitter.com/MyiplKvVrN
— The Rainbow Project (@TRPNI) July 18, 2018
The Belfast Pride Parade is on August 4, with the week’s events ending the following day.
“Staff are just really shaken up. Ones who were first in this morning were in tears,” Gavin Boyd, the group’s policy and advocacy manager said, according to the Irish News. “Belfast Pride is our busiest time of year — people have been working for months to get their events organized. It knocks a bit of your confidence, but staff have really been working hard getting back to it.”
The community also seemed hard at work in helping the group recover. Since the break-in, a call for donations has helped the Rainbow Project raise more than $9000 to replace the stolen laptops and repair the damages to the office.
“It’s phenomenal. It has been really amazing. People have really rallied behind us,” Boyd told the Irish News.
The Rainbow Project and the Belfast police have yet to determine if the group was targeted because of their work with the LGBTQ community.
“This center is Belfast’s only representation for [LGBTQ] people. They had a plan of action and targeted us specifically, so I do think it was motivated by hate,” the Rainbow Project’s sustainability officer, Jayne Robinson, says, according to the Belfast Telegraph. She believes the group was intentionally targeted.
“Our safe space has totally been invaded,” Robinson said to the outlet.
Though the laptops could potentially have had confidential information on them, the group says the data is safe, writing in a post: “Please be assured all our data is kept on a secured server and our laptops are all encrypted. Access to our server has been cut off from the laptops that were stolen.”
Established in 1994 in response to concern over the spread of HIV, the Rainbow Project now provides a wide variety of services to the LGBTQ population in the region. According to its website, the organization is the largest in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland remains the only place in the UK were same-sex couples cannot marry, with the Northern Ireland Assembly refusing to implement the legislation passed in the UK Parliament. It was also the last to legalize homosexuality, decriminalizing it in 1882. As the BBC reports, England and Wales decriminalized it 15 years earlier.