BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — UPDATE (June 18): Blount Memorial Hospital said many people reached out to them about the woman recorded insulting teens over Pride art painted on an Alcoa bridge.
They said that she was a PRN employee of the Blount Memorial Wellness Center who occasionally taught fitness classes through June 11. They confirmed that she is no longer an employee there.
"We value and respect everyone in our community, and the actions displayed do not reflect the standards and values of our organization," they said.
For people across the U.S. and in East Tennessee, June is a month meant to celebrate who they are. Pride Month is meant to remind LGBTQ+ people that they are not alone, and they are loved.
The Alcoa community stepped up for Pride Month this year after a hateful tirade directed at two teens was shared across social media. After Jasmine Martinez and Carmen McClain decorated a bridge known for community art with Pride flags, they were approached by a woman.
"In my entire life, I had never heard anyone say things like that to me," said Martinez.
The woman told the teens that "they were not different anymore" and insulted them for painting the flags. In a video recorded by Martinez, the woman hurls expletives at them and eventually starts using racist language against them as she shakes a spray paint can which was later used to cover the flags.
The woman was also filmed telling the teens that she has more rights than them as she covers the rainbow flag in white. The girls had painted the rainbow Pride flag, the pansexual Pride flag, the transgender Pride flag and the bisexual Pride flag on the bridge.
"We wanted people to know they're not alone," said Martinez. "When I was in middle school I would have loved to see these flags and see all these people supporting us."
On Wednesday, the teens returned to the bridge to repaint the flags. They were joined by community members who wanted them to know they were not alone.
According to posts from McKenzie, the flags had been painted over with phrases that included "pray for our country" and "proud to be an American."
And on the same day they repainted the Pride flags, as they were interviewed for this story, a truck pulled up to the bridge and painted over their work. Despite that, the teens said they aren't backing down.
"It didn't stop us. We're not going to stop doing this people are probably going to paint over this bridge again and we're going to come back and paint over it," said McClain.
They plan to repaint the flags again on Friday at 5 p.m. and want to make sure that the LGBTQ+ community knows that it is loved and that nobody feels alone.