‘Really shaken’: Pride crosswalk vandalism sparks outrage (2024)

Mayor expects a fresh coat of colourful paint will rejuvenate the vandalized crosswalk by the end of the week, as Sault Police look for video footage and potential witnesses

Detectives with the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service are continuing to investigate an act of vandalism at the Pride crosswalkafter it was defaced with red spray paint sometime on Tuesday.

Sault Police spokesperson Lincoln Louttit told SooToday they are currently looking for evidence, video footage and witnesses to piece together what took place.

On June 20, the Pride crosswalk was freshly painteda few streets west from the previous East Street at Bay Street location where it had been for years.

This week’s incident occurred after a pair of duelling protests downtown surrounded the rainbow stripes at Spring andBay streets.

Roughly a dozen people protested at the new crosswalk on Saturdayand Monday, while 30 others staged a counter protest across the street in support of Sault Pride.

Mayor Matthew Shoemaker told SooToday the city is looking to repair the damages “as quickly as it can possibly happen.”

“There was discussion about whether it could be done today but it rained this morning, so they weren’t able to do it today,” he said. “But it will be done as soon as possible, likely before the end of the week —weather permitting.”

Virginia McLeod, the city’s manager of recreation and culture, said the crosswalk was painted by Public Works and cost $1,100, which included paint and supplies. Touch-ups will be required annually.

She also noted the team will use the remaining paint and supplies from the initial purchase to repaint.

Disappointed by the incident, the mayor didn’t mince words about the person or people who were responsible for defacing the crosswalk.

“The folks who were behind the vandalism have no sympathy from me,” he said. “They have defaced public property, and if there are penalties that can be associated with that, then I would support whatever can be administered there.”

“It’s really serious and needs to be looked at,” he added. “We will get it repaired, and it will continue to symbolize the openness and welcoming nature of our community going forward.”

Sault Pride chair Amanda Zuke told SooToday she feared something like this could happen after several comments were made on social media that appeared to threaten the new project.

“I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but something deep down in my gut said it probably would,” she admitted. “It’s very disheartening, and we’re really shaken about it.”

“That crosswalk is a symbol of unity in the community,” she added. “It’s a symbol that all of us, regardless of our individual experiences, can stand together as one community and as one family.”

The former rainbow crosswalk near the downtown library had little to no reports of issues since the time it was painted in 2020before it eventually began to erode naturally.

So, what’s changed since then?

“The climate is so divided right now, and there’s so much active hate coming at us,” Zuke said. “The community as a whole is frightened of the hate that’s been rising. It’s one thing to have people protesting, it’s another thing to have people vandalizing that one thing that represents us.”

“Certainly, there is influence from south of the border on Canadian politics,” she added. “They say when the U.S. gets a cold, Canada sneezes. I think that’s very much the case with the political climate as well.”

While she would like to see additional measures like surveillance footage implemented in the area, Zuke said she recognizes that resources are already stretched thin and would understand if that’s not possible.

But if Sault Police do end up finding the culprit responsible for Tuesday’s vandalism, the Sault Pride chair was vocal in how she’d like to see it handled.

“If they were to find someone, I would absolutely like to see it pursued as a hate crime,” she said. “It’s an attack on a community that is identified as protected.”

Mayor Shoemaker wanted to remind residents that despite the actions that took place this week, Sault Ste. Marie remains an inclusive city.

“To members of the Pride community: this is a welcoming community and a community that embraces different lifestyles, values and cultures,” he said. “This Pride crosswalk symbolizes that, so we will not let the fact that it’s been defaced by closed-mindedness impact or diminish our commitment to being inclusive.”

‘Really shaken’: Pride crosswalk vandalism sparks outrage (2024)
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