Staff and students have restored the pride flag crosswalk at a high school in a Victoria suburb following its vandalization only three days after its initial painting and before Monday’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
West Shore RCMP responded to Royal Bay shortly after midnight on May 16. A group of 18 to 20 people, reported by witnesses to be spray painting on and around the school, immediately fled. Police stopped one vehicle with three occupants, two of whom were arrested for mischief in connection to the vandalized crosswalk, which was discovered in the morning. Both arrested men were residents of Colwood.
The pride flag crosswalk was the legacy project and inclusion effort of 17-year-old queer senior student Oskar Wood.
The initial hurt Wood felt hearing about the vandalism was almost eclipsed by self-doubt after discovering the extent of the hateful messaging, he said.
Hate terms were painted across the crosswalk along with graphic phallic imagery, said Danielle Huculak, teacher and facilitator of Colwood’s Royal Bay Secondary School’s gender and sexuality alliance. A racist word was also spray-painted at another part of the school. Police are investigating for incite of public hatred.
“I thought it was just going to be scribbles – nothing so hateful,” Wood said. “It’s hard for me, as a 17-year-old kid, to see this hate … I’m trying as hard as I can to stay positive and focus on the community that is supporting me.”
Support has been pouring in, both online and with offers to help fix the crosswalk.
“On this International Day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, we are only too recently reminded that discrimination does still exist in our communities,” said Sooke School District chairperson Ravi Parmar in an online statement. “There is no place for homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and racism in our classrooms, our schools, our homes or our communities.”
The Sooke School District launched the #SD62Pride Twitter campaign for participants to submit photos for the school district of LGBTQ+ pride.
#SD62 students, staff and community members near and far – stand with us on Monday! Show your smile and post a photo to your social using #SD62Pride. We stand strong 🌈. Now RT the heck out of this 🙂 pic.twitter.com/LOyFf5Jl8i
— School District #62 (@SD62_Sooke) May 17, 2021
Reactions on social media against the vandalism also included death threats towards the perpetrators, which Wood said they didn’t deserve. “They don’t deserve hate – that’s exactly what this crosswalk is meant for, it’s meant to promote acceptance, empathy [and] mutual respect.”
Wood, along with three other students and Royal Bay staff restored the crosswalk Sunday afternoon, which also featured a rolling crowd of support from passersby and a speech from Colwood Mayor Rob Martin.
Bu the blatant hate “almost strengthened the meaning behind the crosswalk,” Wood said. “Now that we’ve painted over it, [it shows] we will not stand for this. We will not accept what hateful things are put on the crosswalk. If it happens again, we’ll just repaint it – over and over and over again.”
West Shore RCMP did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
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