Racist graffiti closes skatepark, sparks outrage in Listowel, Ont.
LISTOWEL, ONT. -- Less than 48 hours after implementing a curfew and increasing enforcement, racist and derogatory graffiti appeared at Listowel’s skatepark.
“Every community has some level of graffiti, but this was a particularly egregious example of messaging that really defies the spirit and character of our community. I am quite frustrated with it,” says North Perth Mayor Todd Kasenberg.
Haben Redai is more than frustrated. Originally from Africa, Redai is relatively new to Listowel, and says the racist and derogatory words spray painted at the skate park last Sunday night make her feel angry and unwelcome.
“It’s consistently happening. This is not the first time a racial slur has been spray painted here. In 2017, it happened at a school in the area. Did they find out who did it, or just forget about it, and move on,” asks Redai.
North Perth promptly painted over the graphic and derogatory graffiti, and put up a fence, to effectively close off access to the skatepark entirely.
“The majority should not be punished because a few kids did that. So seeing this closed, it doesn’t make any change,” says Redai.
Redai says she’d like to see Perth County finally implement an anti-racism and diversity committee. Continuing to talk about setting one up, without doing so, is sending the wrong message to the numerous newcomers of colour to the region.
“A committee like that would also be a welcoming sight for Perth County for minorities who feel excluded. The council members shouldn’t be prolonging forming an anti-racism and diversity committee, there shouldn’t be so many barriers to have to deal with first before creating a committee,” she says.
Kasenberg, who is pushing for the committee’s creation, as well as supporting a recent diversity sign campaign set up by a local church, says he’s sorry Redai, and others of colour who are new to Listowel, have to deal with this.
"This is a largely hospitable and generous community. These are the actions of a few who are disillusioned, or have too much time on their hands due to the pandemic. But at the heart of it, there is some racism, and we need to deal with that,” he says.
“We need to find out who did this, and possibly help them, educate them about their actions and how it hurts people,” says Redai.
Kasenberg says the fence will stay up at Listowel’s skatepark until at least the end of the stay-at-home order.
And getting more eyes on the park to ensure this doesn’t happen again, will be part of the skatepark’s reopening plan, says Kasenberg.