A small northern B.C. city’s residents are coming together to protect their local rainbow crosswalk after it was vandalized at least three times in the past few weeks.
Dawson Creek, a city of about 13,000 near the province’s north-east border with Alberta, has painted a rainbow crosswalk outside the local secondary school to celebrate LGBTQ pride month every year since 2017.
But before the paint could even dry this year, disaster struck.
“There were two different trucks, one who went and did burnouts on it and another one that came and someone got out of the vehicle with some sort of substance like oil or something and poured all over the crosswalk,” Dawson Creek Pride Society board member Chelsea Mackay told HuffPost Canada.
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The Pride Society released a statement condemning the incident, calling it “disheartening.” There is video of the trucks involved, but no one has been caught yet. Mackay said volunteers helped clean it up and repainted the crosswalk the next day.
It’s not the first time a rainbow crosswalk has been vandalized in recent years. In 2015 one in New Westminster, B.C. was vandalized with white paint the same day it was painted, and in 2018 the rainbow crosswalk in White Rock, B.C. was vandalized with graffiti .
While the initial incident was the most severe, Mackay says other bits of graffiti and vandalism have appeared on the crosswalk in recent days and weeks. She says it’s been incredibly heartening to see the community respond so quickly every time it’s been vandalized.
After a recent graffiti incident involving swastikas drawn on the crosswalk last week, she says community members started repainting it before the Pride Society even did anything.
“By the time we turned around, some volunteers from the community, not even members of the society, people, we didn’t even know were supporters of ours, had already gone out to start repainting and working with the city to get the paint and get it all done,” Mackay said.
On Sunday in the pouring rain, around 150 residents came out for a group photo to show their support for the crosswalk, many in matching brightly coloured ponchos with one anonymous donor supplying face masks to ensure everyone was safe in the COVID-19 pandemic.
One resident donated a trail camera to help monitor the crosswalk and deter future vandalism, while another whose apartment overlooks the area volunteered to keep it on their balcony. Mackay said various businesses have been flying rainbow flags to show their support for the city’s LGBTQ community in the face of the vandalism.
Dawson Creek mayor Dale Bumstead says he’s proud of the community for bouncing back time and time again.
“It’s just heartening in one way to see the community come together and it’s a little disheartening when you see people in the world today take that kind of approach to vandalizing these messages in our community that are so positive in my view,” he told HuffPost.
“People we didn’t even know were supporters of ours had already gone out to start repainting and working with the city to get the paint and get it all done.”
Bumstead said events like the original vandalism can add to the perception that smaller cities or rural areas aren’t accepting of everyone. But both he and Mackay said the solidarity around the crosswalk and recent rallies in support of Black Lives Matter show Dawson Creek is a progressive place.
“Community is about all of us and I often say that a city isn’t a piece of paper in a mayor’s desk drawer,” he said. “People are proud of our community because it is the people of our community that are pulling together to try to push that bar higher every day.”