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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Police investigating latest Pride crosswalk vandalism as possible hate crime. Group planning show of support shocked to arrive and find road defaced again
During a protest Friday morning, people lie on top of the latest hateful comments spray painted across the Pride crosswalk. Somer Slobodian
More than 70 people showed up in support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. Somer Slobodian
A supporter hung up a sign near the Pride crosswalk that says, "Hate has no home here." Somer Slobodian
Suzin Schiff, a resident of NOTL who organized the community photo, speaks to a large crowd of supporters. Somer Slobodian

Residents were shocked to learn Friday morning that Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Pride crosswalk had been defaced for a fourth time as they arrived for a group photo to show support for the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

This time, someone had taken the time to spray paint even more hateful comments toward 2SLGBTQI+ people. 

“Die f- -gs” and “f- -k gay ppl” were written in large black letters as was “BLM,” presumably a reference to Black Lives Matter.

The latest defacing of the crosswalk comes two days after the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake cleaned up a third act of vandalism on the crosswalk, located at Anderson Lane and Niagara Stone Road, near the public library.

Niagara Regional Police said they are investigating the latest incident as a possible hate crime.

In barely two months since it was installed at the end of May, the crosswalk now has been vandalized four times. 

Suzin Schiff, who organized and planned the photoshoot, said every time vandalism happens, people need to complain to the town and show up to express their views.  

“What is expected should not be accepted, that’s my motto,” said Schiff. 

“If nothing is done, if no voices rise up, then there’s a perception that it’s accepted,” she added.

She was especially shocked to see the BLM acronym used this time.

“Who’s next?” she said. 

More than 70 people from across Niagara-on-the-Lake and elsewhere in the region showed up for the photo at 9 a.m. Friday, not expecting to see hateful comments once again on the crosswalk. 

“To use the word die, how angry can you get?” said Pat Klotz, one of the NOTL residents who was there.

Another resident, Neeti Mehrotra, was visibly upset after seeing the latest vandalism. 

“What scares them so much?” she said. 

If it’s a young person doing it, she said, she wonders who is teaching them that such behaviour is OK.

Mel Thivierge, a worker at the Shaw Festival, said he’s not surprised it happened again and suggested the vandals won’t stop. 

When he got to the crosswalk, he hung up a flag nearby that read, “Hate has no home here.” 

“Hate is easy and hate is cheap when you’re doing it at night and blacking out cameras (and) can’t be held accountable,” he said.

“It’s very cowardly,” he added. 

The amount of support from the residents who showed up and from the ones who honked while driving by showed that the latest act of hatred has upset many people in the community  — and enough is enough.

George Webber, a member of the town’s diversity equity and inclusivity committee, said the number of people who gathered is an indication that “people have to say no, we’ve had enough.”

“I think that everyone gathered here today just shows our continued support,” said Marah Minor, the town’s communications co-ordinator.  

The town has since cleaned up the spray paint.

Coun. Maria Mavridis called what happened “disheartening.”

“I think that we need to be louder with our message versus this,” she said.

Police urged anyone with information to contact the lead detective on the case at 905-688-4111, option 3, extension 1007730.

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