Why would the former mayor of Athens risk his safety to retrieve a vandalized rainbow flag — the emblem of Pride — that fell into the ferry slip at Riverfront Park?

That’s one of the questions many in Athens and Greene County are asking today about former village Mayor Chris Pfister, who was seriously injured retrieving vandalized Pride flags.

Pfister suffered three broken ribs and a fractured bone in his spine, and spent several days hospitalized at Albany Medical Center, his wife Carol Pfister said Wednesday.

All four flags — which symbolized pride for the LGBTQ+ community and were posted in the park in June, which is Pride Month — were torn down and damaged overnight June 27. Three of the flags were salvageable but the fourth was damaged beyond repair.

The vandalism is being classified as a hate crime. Athens Pride had applied for and was granted a permit from the village to put the flags up in the park for the month of June.

The vandals were selective. Several American flags in the park were not damaged. This brings an added dimension to the crime. The vandals targeted these four symbols of equality, social justice and freedom.

The fourth flag was stuck in the ferry slip, Carol Pfister said, and she mentioned it to Chris. He went down there and got caught in the weeds and vines. He tripped and broke three ribs and a bone in his spine.

Chris Pfister could have walked away and left the flag where it fell until somebody else came along to get it out. Instead, Pfister accepted the civic responsibility to his Athens community and the LGBTQ+ community to help right a wrong and pull the flag out of the ferry slip.

By taking action in a case of vandalism that called in LGBTQ+ pride and did not directly involve him, Chris Pfister demonstrated the highest standards of behavior that a public official, past or present, can attain. A tip of the hat to him.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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