A camera is being installed by community members to monitor an intersection in Dawson Creek, B.C., where a freshly painted Pride crosswalk has been vandalized several times since it was painted two weeks ago.
The vandalism has included tire marks and homophobic messages written with spray paint.
Dawson Creek Pride Society board member Chelsea Mackay said the vandalism was sad, frustrating and infuriating.
“I’ve seen lots of homophobia growing up here. I’ve heard lots of transphobia, too,” Mackay told CBC’s Nicole Oud.
“I know it’s a part of the community but that just means it’s so much more important for us to speak out and to start showing people that it’s not alright anymore.”
The first act of vandalism happened on June 2, the day the crosswalk was painted, when two different vehicles burned tire marks over the rainbow colours. After it was repainted, several more tire marks were discovered on the crosswalk between June 3 and 12.
Derogatory messages were spray-painted on the crosswalks on the nights of June 12 and June 13.
Police investigating the incidents on June 2 said one of the drivers has been identified and charged under the Motor Vehicle Act.
Krista Forshner, an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, has now purchased a high-definition security camera with night vision to place in the window of a fellow ally who lives near the crosswalk.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Forshner started sewing and selling masks, and at the time she vowed to use the money she made to better her community. When she saw the concern and frustration in the local LGBTQ+ community over the repeatedly vandalized crosswalk, she knew what she wanted to use that money for.
“I don’t think anybody should be shown hate simply just for existing and accepting themselves for the way that they are,” Forshner said.
“A lot of my friends and people that I love a lot are part of this community and they deserve to feel loved as well and not scared.”
Dawson Creek RCMP did not comment directly on community members using cameras to track activity around the crosswalk, but RCMP Staff Sgt. Damon Werrell encouraged residents to report suspicious or criminal activity.
Pride symbols more important than ever
Mackay said the community has shown the society a lot of support since the vandalism, including Forshner’s gesture and volunteers showing up to repaint the crosswalk.
That’s been important because COVID-19 has essentially shut down Pride gatherings and celebrations around the province — and typically, Mackay said, members of the local LGBT community would typically travel to other northern cities to take part in celebrations, as well as host their own.
“It’s hard to celebrate Pride on your own. It’s about community. It’s about meeting new people. It’s about coming together and celebrating our identity, and we can’t do that,” Mackay said.
Painting the crosswalk and flying the Pride flag during Pride month was particularly important to give the group visibility and to bring people together in spirit, she said.
“And then we have this one thing that we can have even during COVID-19 and it’s kind of taken away from us by people who don’t care, who have no investment in our community,” Mackay said.