What was meant to be a symbol of inclusion has become the target of a hate crime.
Early Monday morning, July 30, City of Salmon Arm workers were back at the intersection of 5th Street SW and 5th Avenue SW, by the fairgrounds, cleaning and repainting the colourful crosswalk for a second time in less than a week. Sometime overnight, the words “Make S.A. Straight Again” were painted in black capital letters over the length of the rainbow crossing.
Salmon Arm RCMP Sgt. Scott Lachapelle said the incident is now being investigated by police, and is being considered a hate crime.
“Vandalism is mischief, but because of the specific content of the message, where it is located on the rainbow crosswalk, one of the flags that we can raise during the investigation is that we believe it to be a hate crime…,” explained Lachapelle. “It’s a vandalism, but it’s hate motivated in that it discriminated specifically against one group. That’s how it’s going to be viewed.”
Lachapelle is hopeful someone will come forward with information that will assist in the investigation, either by contacting the detachment directly at 250-832-6044 or, if they wish to remain anonymous, by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
City staff were required to clean and repair the crosswalk once last week after a single tire burnout mark was left on the rainbow crosswalk, and again Monday morning after multiple burnout marks were made at the crosswalk Friday night and Sunday night’s graffiti. The rainbow crosswalk was painted by the city on July 18.
City of Salmon Arm engineer Jennifer Wilson estimates repairs to both Friday night’s burnouts and Sunday night’s tagging to be $500.
Mayor Nancy Cooper is dismayed by the ongoing vandalism and hateful graffiti, which she noted someone took their time in writing, but adds the city will continue to maintain the rainbow crosswalk.
“I can tell you that we’re going to continue to repaint it – it will stay and we’ll continue to repaint it,” said Cooper. “I’ve been very surprised this continues, but apparently it does in other communities as well.”
Lachapelle said police will be monitoring the situation to see if it becomes an ongoing problem in Salmon Arm.
“Further steps may have to be taken by we, the police, in connection with the city, to look at monitoring that area…,” said Lachapelle. “We believe it took place sometime late last night, and given that area, it’s not uncommon for there to be nobody around. So it’s an area where we may have to try some alternative means of discouraging that kind of behaviour.”