Seeing a red swastika graffiti-ed onto a Red Deer tree trunk was the last straw for Faith Buchanan.
The Glendale woman had noticed a series of Facebook photos of Nazi symbols spray-painted onto local sidewalks and trees. “I was appalled to see these swastikas going up and I thought, what can I do about this?” said Buchanan.
According to the City of Red Deer, three or four spray-painted swastikas were reported in the past two weeks, including on the former Michener North grounds.
“It’s concerning for sure,” said roads supervisor Doug Halldorson, whose staff have been sandblasting, or painting them over on sidewalks and tree trunks.
“We should have more people caring for each other,” Halldorson added, rather than fanning flames of hate.
Buchanan finds it hard to imagine why anyone would be propagating racist symbols associated with the genocide committed by Nazis against Jews and other ethnic groups during the Second World War.
Whether a youth is thoughtlessly spraying swastikas or there are more sinister motives behind it, Buchanan feels “it’s unfortunate” as the country is already polarized and confronting historic horrors inflicted on Indigenous people through residential schools.
There’s “so much hate in the world, already” added the woman, who moved to Red Deer from Manitoba in April 2020. She arrived in time to see angry protests against pandemic restrictions attracting some white supremacy groups.
Buchanan thought about what she could personally do to make this city kinder and friendlier.
She decided to offer free cotton candy from a yard stand she operates with her young daughter to anyone who sends her a photo of inspirational yard art or signage. She said this could be created using sidewalk chalk, a window mural, rock painting, or any other day-brighteners for the benefit of passersby.
“We can’t change the world but we can change how we make it look and I’d like to see more sunshine, rainbows, flowers, smiles,” she explained in a Facebook post.
Halldorson commends Buchanan’s effort. He noted sidewalk chalk art was applied last weekend to the Capstone area, which the city is promoting for development.
With warmer weather in the forecast, Buchanan said she would like to allow her daughter to go to the park without a sense of unease.
“I have met many wonderful people in Red Deer,” she added, “so it’s unfortunate seeing these other things go down.”
Anyone wanting to send her a photo of a positive #ArtOverHate creation can text 204-596-9226.
The offer is time limited and “we will try to keep up,” said Buchanan, who bought her daughter, Sereniity, a cotton candy machine to make her birthday feel more special during the pandemic lockdowns.
Sereniity later suggested they set up a cotton candy stand in their yard instead of selling lemonaid — and business has been steady, even attracting the occasional transit bus driver.