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Rainbow crosswalk vandalized day after installation

June 24, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Dufferin OPP are currently investigating two separate mischief incidents involving vandalism, which have now been deemed as hate crimes.

The newly painted rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Broadway and Mill Street was hit with scribbles of black spray paint on the evening hours of June 15 and the suspects returned sometime during the morning hours of June 16 to further deface it.

Officers are currently searching for four male suspects between the ages of 15 and 18. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or contact Crime Stoppers to remain anonymous.

“To see this happen there was disheartening for sure, however, we’ve got some very, very good cameras now,” said Mayor Sandy Brown. “When it’s uncovered who did this, they’re going to face some serious repercussions here.”

Calling the crime “juvenile”, Mayor Brown noted that the vast majority of Orangeville residents are supportive of the local 2SLGBTQIA+ community and disheartened by the vandalism.

“It’s not something that too many people are giving too much thought to. We know there’s some bigots out there, they just they don’t have much of a voice,” he remarked.

Orangeville Councillor and co-founder of Celebrate Your Awesome, Lisa Post said she wasn’t shocked by the vandalism as she had seen some threats of it on social media after the rainbow crosswalks were installed.

“I would’ve hoped that we would see a stronger message of inclusion and acceptance from our community and unfortunately, there’s still a bit of hate here. I was disappointed for sure,” she said.

Despite the poor actions of a few youths in the community, the general response to the rainbow crosswalks has been overwhelmingly positive, with most people happy to see the new splash of colour downtown, noted Post.

“Right from the get go, as soon as we posted about the crosswalks being installed, the vast majority of the comments were very positive. Quite frankly, I think the majority of people in Orangeville, and in Dufferin County area all believe that hate has no home here,” she said.

“It was really great to see members of the community who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community reaching out to let them know that everybody’s welcome here and that people are supported.”

For many of the people who identify under the 2SLGBTQIA+ umbrella, the crosswalks and the general public’s acceptance of them is key for feeling comfortable in their community.

“I’ve had several messages from members of our LGBTQ+ community, some who’ve grown up in Orangeville, some who are newer to the community, who wanted to put out a message of thanks – just to say thank you for doing something that made me recognize that I am included here,” Post remarked. “For people who grew up here who maybe felt hate back in the early days… that’s a pretty powerful thing.”

And while the community has come a long way in making strides towards acceptance, equity, and inclusion, the recent crosswalk vandalism really shows that there’s still more work to be done.

“We have to continue to educate, we have to continue to put love out in the air and really keep doing the work that’s needed to be done to make sure we’re in an equitable and inclusive space where everybody, regardless of sexuality, gender, race, religion or culture, can feel safe, accepted and included,” said Post.

Meanwhile, Post told the Citizen that during the second act of vandalism, when the vandals returned to the crosswalk to further deface it, a passerby saw what was happening and chased them off.

“So they got one extra stripe written on the crosswalk and that was it,” she said.

Post says she is hopeful the vandals will be caught but is concerned that Orangeville could see more vandalism of this kind in the future.

Fortunately, the support for the crosswalk has been so positive that Post is hopeful the vandals will get the message that their actions aren’t welcome here.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to see more positive days ahead and that everybody can just stop and enjoy the rainbow for what it is. It’s beautiful. It brightens up our downtown core… when you come right up that hill on Broadway, now there’s a very strong message there that shows you’re entering an inclusive community,” Post explained.

Jim Waddington, who also founded Celebrate Your Awesome noted that, “a few black stripes does not outweigh the meaning of the rainbow flag, it just doesn’t do it.”

“There will always be haters. There will always be people who thrive on negativity and that is unfortunate,” he said.

Going forward, Waddington says he doesn’t anticipate that ignorance will disappear overnight, but progressive ideas will continue to push forward and triumph over bigotry and hate.

“There have been many posts put up indicating that ‘hate has no place here’ in either Orangeville or Dufferin County or for that matter, the world. However, that’s just not reality at this point, and yet we strive, we will continue to strive, we will continue to make efforts, we will continue to persevere,” he remarked.

“Just like putting down these crosswalks, there was perseverance, determination. There was timing, of course, this was in the works for several years, and I think that outweighs… a few black marks on a crosswalk – it signifies so much more.

“It’s like a drop in the bucket and we happen to be an ocean, so, sorry the drop really doesn’t count.”



         

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