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Niagara Falls
Monday, September 25, 2023
NOTL’s Pride crosswalk cleaned up after latest vandalism
A town worker cleans up the vandalism on the pride crosswalk. EVAN LOREE

Niagara-on-the-Lake has cleaned up a third act of vandalism of the town’s Pride crosswalk – which also included damage to a newly-installed security camera facing the crosswalk.

This time, the crosswalk was defaced with deep, black tire skid marks and spray paint, with the words “F— you” written across one section.

It is the third time the crosswalk has been vandalized since it was installed on May 30.

Town staff cleaned up the mess Tuesday afternoon and Niagara Regional Police appealed for help from witnesses.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa told The Lake Report he was “shocked” and “disappointed” by the latest vandalism and “really frustrated” to see the camera targeted.

In a follow-up statement, Zalepa said everyone deserves to be treated equally and described the vandalism as an “affront” to the town’s values of inclusivity and acceptance.

Coun. Erwin Wiens, while disheartened by the act, was also confused by it.

“Why would somebody go do that?” he asked.

There being no note, confession or manifesto, Wiens said the town cannot know what the vandal wants – beyond the short, profane message.

“It’s an expense to the town that’s unwarranted, that doesn’t need to happen,” he added.

The town has spent $20,000 on the crosswalk, with $1,500 being kicked in by the NOTL Rotary Club.

Wiens said the cost of the crosswalk never should have been covered with taxpayer dollars, but rather with fundraising, as the town has done with projects like the Upper Canada Heritage Trail.

“It is a complete and utter waste of taxpayers’ money to have to monitor it and to have to fix it,” he said.

He added the vandal is being very shortsighted since the cost to repair it comes out of taxpayers’ pockets.

Such expenses could be used instead to repair roads and potholes, Wiens said.

The town’s chief administrator, Marnie Cluckie, said the vandalism occurred shortly after 3 a.m. on Sunday.

A camera, which was installed shortly after the first act of vandalism on the crosswalk, was also defaced with paint.

“Unfortunately, upon initial review, it seems that the vandals may have first painted over the security camera such that you can’t see the vandalism occurring or the person(s) who damaged the crosswalk,” Cluckie wrote in an email Monday morning in response to questions from The Lake Report.

She strongly condemned the damage and said town staff is investigating further.

“The rainbow crosswalk is an important symbol of diversity, inclusivity and acceptance in our community. This act of vandalism attempts to diminish the spirit of unity the crosswalk represents,” she wrote.

“It is disheartening to witness such acts in our community and I hope we will join together once again and not allow such incidents to discourage us.”

The cleanup cost is “minimal,” Cluckie said, noting total cleaning costs to date have been under $1,000.

Resident George Webber, a member of the town’s diversity and equity committee, said he thinks there are better ways for people to express themselves than with vandalism.

“That idea of dirtying and vandalizing the crosswalk is a bad idea,” Webber said in an interview.

After the two similar acts of vandalism to the crosswalk in June, he said the next step is to move on.

While he felt there was value in alerting the community to what happened, he said he believes the publicity could do more harm than good – like pouring fuel on a fire.

“Every time they do it, they get publicity,” Webber said.

Town staff will work with the police to seek ways to prevent this from occurring again, Cluckie said.

“We appreciate the importance the crosswalk has within the community and the residents who have reached out to inform the town of any acts of vandalism,” Cluckie said.

“While it is disheartening that this incident has occurred, staff will continue to preserve symbols of belonging and respect,  such as the rainbow crosswalk and respond to any acts of hateful vandalism. We remain steadfast in our commitment to collectively work towards a more compassionate and inclusive future.”

In June, Niagara Regional Police identified a 15-year-old boy from St. Catharines as the vandal in the second incident.

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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