After the rainbow flags John DeBoer displays outside his office disappeared, the banners multiplied.
Thursday morning, DeBoer, associate professor at the University of Montana, showed up to work at the Performing Arts/Radio TV building to find the pride flags that usually hang on his door and bulletin board gone.
"Somebody stole them last night," DeBoer said.
At the School of Theatre and Dance, the thievery – An assault on diversity and LGBTQ pride? An odd and covert borrowing? – would not go unanswered.
Alessia Carpoca, head of design and technology, got word of the missing flags, and she marched up to Sarah Fulford, her colleague. A brief conversation ensued before Fulford's class, which was, not incidentally, intermediate costume construction.
"Let's make him a new one."
"We could make five new ones."
"Why don't we cover the building in them?"
In the costume shop, Fulford, visiting assistant professor of costume design and technology, relayed the story of the disappearing flags to her nine students, along with the proposed plan of action.
They expressed righteous indignation, and then, they got to work, cutting scraps, butting seams, sewing brand new flags.
"Why would you steal something like that?" said Pete Gransberg, a theater major, at work sewing a toolkit in the shop.
In class, Gransberg created a rainbow flag decorated with a heart inside a triangle and fringes at the bottom. It hangs in a window high above the costume shop, right next to another window and flag.
"Some people made two," Gransberg said.
Later that morning, someone secured a flag made of extra shiny textile to DeBoer's door. Sharon Collins, who works in the School of Theatre and Dance, ran into a troupe toting colorful banners in the halls.
"Can we hang a flag in your window?" someone asked her.
"Sure," Collins said. "Just don't block my sunlight."
The students sewed 12 in all, so far.
"By 9:30 a.m., the first flag for John was ready, (and) by 10:30 a.m., almost all windows had flags," Carpoca said in an email.
The defiant sewing made them feel better, not just about DeBoer's flags, but about the state of affairs in Washington, D.C., Fulford said.
In Missoula, the theater teachers and students will create more flags.
"One in every window," Fulford said.
They've got everything it takes, easily.
"We have skills, sewing machines, activism and PRIDE!" Carpoca said.
If, in their enthusiasm, DeBoer's "rainbow squad" sews up one too many, they may decide to mail the rainbow banner to hang in a window at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.