Oxford County OPP say they’re investigating after a crosswalk in Ingersoll, Ont., painted to celebrate Pride month next month, was defaced over the weekend in an incident captured on surveillance video.
The incident is the latest to be reported in the county in which a symbol of Pride has been the target.
The crosswalk, located at the intersection of King and Thames streets in downtown Ingersoll, was unveiled last week by town officials and by the Oxford County Pride Committee, with the help of a $5,300 donation from the group 100 Women Who Care in Oxford.
“We will continue to fight for 2SLGBTQAI+ rights in Oxford County, despite the obstacles people try to throw our way. This is a big step in the right direction!” Oxford County Pride said in a Facebook post on May 26.
Days later, the crosswalk was defaced with white paint. A surveillance camera from a nearby business captured the incident, which occurred around 1 a.m. Sunday morning.
In the video, released by the OPP, a southbound dark red-coloured sedan can be seen at the intersection, waiting for two oncoming vehicles to pass. One person can then be seen exiting the vehicle and throwing the paint across the roadway before getting back into the car which then drives away.
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As of Tuesday, police had not released a suspect or vehicle description, and no further information had been made public about the investigation.
“As many people know, Pride is a protest. As exampled by these hateful acts of violence… we continue to need that protest and we continue to need to advocate and educate community members,” said Tami Murray, president of Oxford County Pride Committee, on Tuesday.
“At the end of the day … we’re not going backwards. We’re only going forwards. So we will continue to educate. We will continue to advocate. And we will continue to grow strong as we have done in the past, and we will continue to do in the future.”
The crosswalk has since been repainted, in time for Wednesday’s noon Pride flag raising.
“The city workers were actually out promptly. Thankfully, they did put sand on it to be able to clean up, to soak up the paint. They actually were out with the pressure washers yesterday,” she said.
The crosswalk vandalism comes less than week after incidents in Norwich Township, 24 km to the east, which saw several Pride banners and flags reported damaged and stolen, both from light poles and from private residences.
Police say they received reports of theft and mischief along Main Street and Stover Street in the township between May 20 and 24.
On Monday, police announced that a 16-year-old teen had been charged with two counts of theft under $5,000 in connection with the Norwich investigation, which they note is still ongoing to identify other possible suspects.
“We’re still reviewing some video that has been captured in the area to see if we are able to identify anybody else that’s been responsible for these offences,” said OPP Const. Patti Cote.
The OPP released surveillance images showing a white GMC Sierra pickup truck, red tractor, and three male suspects in orange safety gear whom police believe were involved.
“This is not a new issue, unfortunately, in that specific area. This has been something we’ve dealt with annually in terms of personal property being removed, ie. Pride flags,” Murray said.
“Although it is the first time where, I think, there’s been more of a highlight on it … because the BIA actually initiated this process,” she added, referring to Norwich BIA, which put up the light pole banners.
In a statement last week, Norwich BIA said it had received donations from the community for replacements and messages of support, along with a few negative messages, “very few” of which were “from residents who actually live in our community.”
“I’ve received, not some personal harm threats, but certainly some threats that if we continue to put up the flags, the flags will continue to be torn down, and essentially warning me not to do so,” Murray said. “But as I noted, that won’t be happening as we will be replacing them as soon as possible.”
To show support for the local community, a solidarity walk of about 45 to 50 people was held in Norwich Monday evening, mobilized by the Facebook group Norwich Love and Acceptance, Murray said.
“We were very happy to see lots of horns honking, lots of families in cars waving and supporting us. It would appear that it is a small fraction of a group of people in the community that are pushing back in regard to the Progress Pride flags,” she said.
Several events have been planned for the month of June in Oxford County, including Oxford Pride Family Day on June 18 in Woodstock, and Drag Storytime events in Ingersoll, Tillsonburg, and Woodstock. More information can be found on Oxford County Pride’s website.