The rainbow crosswalk that was painted in the Five Corners neighbourhood in White Rock last month – and defaced with a tire mark less than 24 hours later – has been vandalized again, this time with spray paint.
Over night Thursday, a derogatory term – spelled incorrectly, for the record – was spray-painted in black across the crosswalk, which was installed in the city last month as a message of equality and inclusiveness, and officially unveiled last Friday – along with the raising of the pride flag at White Rock City Hall.
White Rock RCMP Const. Chantal Sears said police discovered the vandalism shortly after midnight Friday, and attempted to remove the paint with the help of the White Rock Fire Department. Sears said the fire department was unable to remove the paint.
City crews were on-site Friday morning with a pressure washer to remove the graffiti, and it was removed before 9 a.m.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin – who attended the official unveiling of the crosswalk last week – told Peace Arch News Friday that the vandalism comes from a combination of “ignorance and fear”
“People are forgetting that it’s a symbol of the LGBTQ community, but more than that, it’s a symbol of acceptance for everybody, including persons with disabilities, First Nations, and anybody who has been – at one point in time – marginalized. That’s really what’s so disappointing about it, what a shame.”
When city funding for the crosswalk was announced in May, Baldwin said he received emails from residents all over the Lower Mainland congratulating the city on the project.
“What happens, I guess, it just takes one person or a small group to undue the work, somewhat, of a much larger group. That’s just the way life is, I guess. We all have to work through this kind of stuff and know that the greater number of people, by far, are accepting and supporting. You just get these groups of people who are scared, ignorant and they just don’t get it,” Baldwin said.
The idea of the rainbow crosswalk was first pitched to city council by White Rock BIA president Ernie Klassen, real estate agent Louise McKnight and her mother-in-law Ruth Allard.
Klassen told PAN Friday that the vandalism is not indicative of the greater White Rock community.
“I think it’s horrible, especially given what was spray painted. Apparently, there was swastikas spray-painted,” Klassen said. “It’s a sad statement that people would go to that kind of level. We have had very, very huge support in the community for having the crosswalk painted and what it represents. It represents inclusiveness, it’s not only for the gay and lesbian community.”
Rainbow crosswalks have been vandalized in Surrey, Cowichan, Salmon Arm, Fort Langley and Comox Valley as well.
“Like in every other community, we sort of expected that something might happen,” Klassen said.
The Surrey rainbow crosswalk, painted at Old Yale Road and University Drive in June, was vandalized after someone splashed paint on it. Klassen said he considers that incident an act of vandalism, but considers the White Rock graffiti as a hate crime considering what was painted.
“It’s quite another thing when you’re putting a swastika on there. The swastika represents one of the darkest hours of our history, both in the general population but also in the gay community… There were thousands of gay people that were murdered along with the Jewish population,” Klassen said.
“Vandalism versus a hate crime, is how I see this.”
Klassen said the vandalism “brings back memories” of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, where 49 people were gunned down.
“It only takes one person,” Klassen noted.
Klassen said organizers alerted police before hosting a dinner/dance pride party last Saturday, held at White Rock’s Elk Hall.
“We wanted to feel safe. While the majority of the time we feel totally safe in our neighbourhoods, there is still that little thought on the back of our mind that something could happen,” Klassen added.
“Having said all of that, we are not one bit regretting putting forward this crosswalk. We want to symbolize that we are an open, inclusive and tolerant society in White Rock.”
The City of White Rock released a statement following the incident at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday.
“The City is disappointed that such an act has occurred as the message of the rainbow crosswalk is to cultivate kindness, respect, and inclusion. This incident is under investigation and witnesses are asked to contact White Rock RCMP’s Detachment line at 778-593-3600,” the statement said.
#Statement: Vandalism of the City of White Rock’s Rainbow Crosswalk
White Rock City Staff cleaned the vandalism by 11:00am. This incident is under investigation and witnesses are asked to contact White Rock RCMP’s Detachment line at 778-593-3600. https://t.co/oj3wcDE3DE pic.twitter.com/K4c2BEUxcW
— City of White Rock (@whiterockcity) August 3, 2018