Provincial police in Lambton County are investigating after a Pride flag was found in a noose at the annual Petrolia and Enniskillen Fall Fair in Petrolia, Ont., over the weekend.
Few details are known, but the noose was found wrapped around the propane tanks of the Truckin Mamas on the Run food truck early Sunday morning at the fair, which ran over the weekend in the town located southeast of Sarnia.
The noose, which was tied on one end to a brick, is believed to have been put there sometime between 12:30 a.m., when fair staff left, and 7 a.m. when people began returning to the fairgrounds, said Demi Krall, past president of the Petrolia and Enniskillen Agricultural Society, which organizes the fair.
“Police were called and they came out and talked to all of us, and they seem to be taking it very seriously. They are looking into it and I don’t really know much more than that at the moment,” Krall said.
“To me, I see it as a death threat, honestly. I don’t know how else you could take it.”
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Truckin Mamas on the Run posted photos of the noose on its Facebook page Sunday morning.
Global News reached out to the food truck and co-owner Chris Tripp for comment, but did not receive a response by publishing time. Tripp owns the truck with his mother, according to the Sarnia Observer.
“I don’t want to speak for Chris, but as a member of the (LGBTQ2+) community, I know that this unfortunately isn’t an isolated incident,” Krall said.
Truckin Mamas’ awning is a large Pride flag, and Pride flags fly at the truck’s usual spot in Petrolia’s Bridgeview Park.
“There’s been a few instances that Chris has had to deal with involving Pride flags. Like it’s bad enough to vandalize property, but this was just taking it a whole other step further,” she said.
One such incident occurred in the spring, when a man harassed Tripp and his mother about the Pride flags, prompting the flags to be taken down, according to a report by SarniaNewsToday.ca.
The flags were re-raised at an event on June 1 in support of Diversity Ed and to mark the start of Pride Month. In late July, the truck was egged by a member of the public, according to a post on Truckin Mamas’ Facebook page.
“A noose is a pretty clear message. But what hurts me – I’m comfortable with who I am. It took me a long time to get to this place – but I know there are a ton of people still struggling with being who they are and their sexuality,” said Krall.
“It’s already a struggle enough without people making threats like this. People just need to be able to feel safe to be who they are, and it’s just so sad that we still live in a time where people aren’t safe to be who they are.”
Lambton County OPP said Monday that they were investigating the matter as a hate crime, and were asking members of the public with information to come forward.
Since news of the incident first emerged on Sunday, Krall says the local community has been very supportive, and she hopes people won’t lump the town into the same basket as the perpetrators.
“We’ve never had anything like this happen at our fair before … I don’t know how to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but we are going to figure out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
The Lambton County investigation follows several incidents in southwestern Ontario this year where Pride flags have been burned, stolen, or vandalized. A Pride sidewalk in Ingersoll was also defaced with paint.
In June, the OPP’s Leamington detachment reported the theft of three Pride flags from three schools in the municipality.
Later that month, a council meeting in Norwich Township drew headlines after a man engaged in a 30-minute rant, arguing against gender inclusivity and sexual identity education in schools, and comparing the support of Pride and the Pride flag to Nazi Germany.
The speaker, Jacob Dey, 47, of Tillsonburg, had been charged a month earlier with theft under $5,000 after several Pride flags were reported stolen or vandalized in the township.
In July, a 37-year-old London man was charged with possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose and causing a disturbance in connection with an altercation near a Pride event in the city’s Wortley Village.
Statistics Canada reported last month that 3,360 hate crimes were reported by Canadian police last year — a 27 per cent jump compared to 2020, and a 72 per cent jump over the span of two years.
Higher numbers of hate-motivated crimes targeting religion, sexual orientation and race or ethnicity accounted for the majority of the increase, the agency reported.
— with files from Sawyer Bogdan and Amber Fryday