Four Pride-themed barriers outside Pepino's in downtown Bangor were vandalized. Eleven barriers with Pride flags were vandalized by September of 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

The Orono man accused of defacing downtown Bangor barriers painted with the LGBTQ flag pleaded not guilty during his initial appearance in court on Wednesday.

Paul Melanson, 61, was charged with criminal mischief after he allegedly painted over parts of the rainbow LGBTQ flag painted on city-owned barriers outside Black Bear Brewing Co. on Exchange Street and Pepino’s restaurant on Park Street over Labor Day weekend.

The cement barricades had been set up to mark outdoor dining areas for Bangor restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The city had authorized a group of business owners, artists and volunteers to paint the new LGBTQ flag onto the barriers during Pride month in June. The flag design, called the “Progress Flag,” includes colored stripes representing marginalzied LGBTQ community members, including people of color and transgender people.

After Melanson pleaded not guilty, his case was continued until Dec. 15, when a dispositional conference will be held, according to Penobscot County District Attorney Marianne Lynch. Melanson is on personal recognizance bail with a condition that he not commit new crimes, she said.

In 2007, Melanson complained to the Orono School Board about a transgender girl who was using the girls’ bathroom at Asa Adams Elementary School, which his grandson attended. The girl was asked to use a staff bathroom after Melanson’s complaint.

That sparked a court fight that ended in 2014 when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled it unlawful to force transgender children to use the school bathroom designated for their birth sex rather than the gender with which they identify.