Just days after a rainbow crosswalk was painted outside Royal Bay Secondary, it was marred by homophobic slurs and obscenities.
The vandalism happened about midnight Saturday. West Shore RCMP arrested two Colwood men for mischief after stopping a vehicle in the area. Police had responded to a report of 18 to 20 people in the school parking lot, with some of them spray painting.
The group fled after being confronted by a nearby resident, but officers were already close by.
Just hours after the damage was discovered, a crew that included students, trustees and Colwood Mayor Rob Martin was at the school fixing the crosswalk in time for school on Monday.
“I didn’t want the crosswalk to have such hateful things on it when kids were walking in on Monday morning,” said Grade 12 student Oskar Wood, who was part of the group that initially painted the crosswalk last week. He said the graffiti covered much of the crosswalk and on the school itself, and included slurs such as “[expletive] the gays,” along with a drawing of a face and a penis.
“We’re only assuming that it was my face they were trying to draw, because my face was one of the only ones that was associated with this crosswalk.”
The crosswalk project was largely student-led and involved about 35 people, Wood said, so seeing it defaced was hard. “It was definitely heartbreaking to see and disappointing, and saddened me.”
On the other hand, the vandalism underscored the meaning behind the crosswalk, he said. “There was lots of talk about the crosswalk being just a token, but it has strengthened this sense of acceptance, inclusivity, empathy and compassion.”
Const. Meighan Massey called the vandalism “reprehensible,” and said behaviour inciting hate and intolerance will not be tolerated.
Investigators are looking into charges of mischief but inciting public hatred, because of what police are calling obscene sexual images and hate language on the crosswalk.
Sooke School District chairman Ravi Parmar, who was part of the crew that restored the crosswalk, said his heart went out to everyone who put time and effort into making the project happen.
Having it damaged so soon “was tough to hear about,” he said. “And when I arrived on the scene, tough to see, as well.”
Parmar said he is thankful for the group that showed up to make the crosswalk look “like new again.”
“It’s unfortunate that we had to do that in the first place, but obviously that speaks to the fact there is still a lot of hate in our communities,” he said. “The point of the crosswalk was to provide a way of welcoming those students who for generations have not felt welcome in our schools.”