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Oxford Pride supporters decry rainbow boardwalk damage as act of hate

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Pride month in Oxford County has been marred once again by what some are calling an act of hatred. The OPP is investigating after a Pride boardwalk in Tillsonburg was damaged by a motorbike twice in two weeks.

Security video from the Station Arts Centre date-marked May 27 appears to show a motorbike rider arrive at the freshly painted rainbow coloured boardwalk.

The driver lifts yellow tape surrounding the boardwalk, proceeds onto the rainbow surface and performs spinouts, damaging the wood and paint.

The driver is then seen driving off into the night.

Another video marked June 9 shows a motorbike arrive to the same spot. The driver appears to make a hand gesture to the camera before applying fresh damage, then taking off.

Station Arts Centre ExecutiveDdirector Tabith Verbuyst said it’s disheartening.

An image showing damage done to the Tillsonburg Station Arts Centre and boardwalk on June 6, 2024. (Source: Tillsonburg Station Arts Centre/Facebook)

“It’s very blatant that it’s a hate crime against the community. It’s hurtful, it’s disrespectful, it’s not necessary in today’s day and age. Nobody understands why we can’t just all get along,” she said.

Passerby Linda Drescher stopped to survey the damage. The Kitchener resident said it makes her sad to see this happen in the town she grew up in.

“Very sad. Can’t just let people express what they want to express and let that be. Beautiful artwork. Nice and colourful,” she remarked.

The OPP says it’s investigating the acts as mischief.

Oxford Pride is calling on Tillsonburg council to publicly condemn the acts.

“I do think town council and the mayor need to be making a statement against these acts of violence,” said Oxford Pride President Tami Murray. “And I do know some councillors have made those comments, but I do think this needs to be a very stern and strong message that we’re not going to accept violence and destruction of property in Tillsonburg of any kind. Let alone one that’s targeted toward a marginalized group and quite frankly is a hate crime.”

CTV News reached Tillsonburg Mayor Deb Gilvesy by phone, "There's a lot of work, time, and effort that's gone into creating that boardwalk and it's extremely disappointing to see it continually vandalized.”

In addition to a Pride symbol, the Station Arts Centre boardwalk has significant local heritage value. The property is the town’s old train station, dating back to 1875. The track and railroad ties, from which the boardwalk is made, are all original.

Verbuyst said they plan to repaint the boardwalk, again, and she’s gratified to have received offers of help from community members.

“I just hope that people understand that this isn’t something that is going to deter us from being inclusive and proud and love in the end wins,” she said.

— The following video may be offensive to some viewers

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