Vandals are literally leaving a black mark on Red Deer’s efforts to celebrate diversity.
A rainbow-painted crosswalk downtown has been defaced at least twice this week by tire-spinning vandals laying an ugly track of rubber.
“There’s always a couple of yahoos that like to damage things that don’t belong to them and things they don’t agree with,” said Central Alberta Pride Society co-chair Serge Gingras.
The rainbow crosswalks were unveiled at Ross Street and Little Gaetz this past Monday to support Central Alberta Pride Week, which kicks off on Saturday. They were damaged on the first day and again on Tuesday.
Whether the vandalism is aimed at the LGBTQ community or Pride Week specifically can only be guessed.
But it’s happened before in other communities, said Gingras.
“It’s not a Red Deer problem. It happens everywhere where there are rainbow crosswalks. I heard that it happened in Victoria and that it happened in Edmonton.”
Gingras is not letting a couple of incidents put a damper on the city’s upcoming celebrations.
“I am far more encouraged by the positive response that we got,” he said, adding he and the society will continue their efforts to promote diversity and acceptance.
“It’s important that we do it and we continue doing it. To me, that small incident is not going to get in the way of the work we do.”
“I think it’s going to be a phenomenal Pride Week, the best Red Deer has ever seen. And I think it will set the tone for future weeks as well.
“I’m very positive and optimistic about it.”
City Coun. Paul Harris seconds Gingras’ message of acceptance.
“We put a crossing like this up and do other things because we need to show that we respect and support diversity in our communities,” he said, adding the crosswalks are also meant as a celebration.
Putting symbols in place that show there is acceptance in the community and it helps those who may be struggling, said Harris, who came out as gay in the 1980s.
“I think about those reasons why we would do something like that.
“I also think about the other side, the people who are vandalizing the crosswalk. I wonder why they are doing that. I wonder what they are struggling with (and) why they can’t accept diversity in our community.
“Where did the hate and anger come from?”
A Red Deer Advocate reporter witnessed some of that anger on Wednesday morning as he chatted with city workers. As a pickup truck stopped at the lights by the crosswalk the driver leaned out and yelled, “What a waste of taxpayers’ money!”
Harris said it’s not uncommon to see resistance when the community tries something new. Some are thrilled and others want to hold on to the past.
Like Gingras, Harris will not allow a few mean-spirited acts get to him.
“I’ve been through this my entire life, right?”