The organizers of a rally in support of President Donald Trump in Crete last Saturday have been defending themselves against allegations that their event was anti-LGBTQ.
Brandon Harris, an organizer from Joliet, said about 100 people attended the rally. He added that some community members made critical comments on social media about one attendee's rainbow-colored flag which read, "Trump 2020. (Expletive) your feelings."
Harris is the executive director of Freedom Movement USA, a political action committee that has organized multiple rallies like the one in Crete around the Midwest and specifically in Will County, in the weeks since Trump was impeached.
Harris said the criticism was a misunderstanding and that the attendee's flag was not intended to be anti-LGBTQ, but simply supportive of Trump.
"We support gay men and women," he said. "We support good people who have conservative values."
Brandon Perry, 23, a Beecher native, said he was the attendee who brought the flag. He said he purchased a pro-Trump rainbow flag because he is gay.
"I wanted people to see that gay people do support the president," Perry said.
Harris also said he's worked with conservative activists who identify as LGBTQ within his organization. He said Freedom Movement USA even partnered with the Log Cabin Republicans of Illinois, a conservative group focused on LGBTQ inclusivity.
Ethan Slyder, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Illinois, voiced support for Harris and his organization via a statement saying they've treated those of every race, gender, creed and sexual orientation "with the utmost respect."
Harris said he and his fellow organizers also had heard concerns from locals on social media about the rally taking place at the intersection of Main and Exchange streets near the Crete United Methodist Church.
Amy Perez, a resident of nearby Steger who also helped organize the rally, said she'd seen the backlash on social media, including concerns that the rally happened near the church. She said she wanted to make sure the public understood the rally was not a church event.
That was also the concern of Rev. Kristen Larsen, the lead pastor at Crete United Methodist. She said she'd heard anecdotally in the days after the rally that some community members were wondering whether it was a church event.
"We didn't know anything about this," Larsen said.
Perez added that while the reaction was not quite what she'd expected, their primary goal was to "unite the people of the town."