News broke on Wednesday morning from Centretown Citizens Community Association president Thomas McVeigh around 3:10am that the Black Lives Matter mural which was temporarily located at Bank and Somerset was defaced. His tweet “I am sickened. This mural was defaced. It spoke of trans people of colour. I am angry and saddened.#blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/qh7EAErona” alerted the community to the defaced Mural.
Over the past two days the murals supporting black lives, and indigenous lives in Ottawa had come under increased attack. The CBC quoted an Individual of BlackCollectiv as saying “We actually had one of our other murals at (the same) wall, a native mural done by an indigenous person was just vandalized yesterday,”
The Mural’s main artist Kalkidan Assefa posted an image on Twitter earlier on Wednesday where someone had crossed out the “Black” in black lives matter and replaced it with “All”, it was repaired by a member of the community by the end of the day. This was the day before it was thoroughly defaced.
Buzzfeed quoted Assefa as saying “There’s definitely a white supremacist element in the city of Ottawa. People want to deny it but we face it everyday,” It would appear that a lot of people in the City of Ottawa were repulsed by the attack on the mural. In an email to the Huffington Post the Mayor Jim Watson said “”This kind of hateful act and threatening language are not in any way indicative of the opinions of Ottawa’s residents, and they have no place in our city,”. The local MPP Yasir Naqvi took to twitter “Saddened by destruction to mural celebrating Trans People of Colour in #OttawaCentre. Its message can’t be silenced. #NotMyOttawa #OttCity”
The #NotMyOttawa was trending in Ottawa by 8:56am as people awoke and came to terms with the defacing of the mural. A tweet by local community leader Ian Capstick was retweeted over 540 times after he posted it at 4:40am on the Thursday morning, it said “Celebrated Black Trans Lives Matter mural on Bank St destroyed. “You’ve been warned” scrawled violently. #notmyottawa” . Throughout the day people in Ottawa took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their concerns about the state of racism in Ottawa.
The Citizen quoted Assefa as saying the Vandalism was ““problematic — it’s definitely motivated by some sort of racism, in my opinion.” Going on to say ““You’re preventing us from just expressing ourselves, basically. If all lives matter to you so much, then why are you so threatened by forms of expression that aren’t your own?”.
The local City councillor Katherine McKenney had harsher words stating “I believe it is hate-motivated. There’s a level of violence here that’s frightening and we have got people in our community who are more marginalized who are more at risk of violence. Certainly trans women.” She also told the Metro “It was hugely distressing when I first saw the mural. It was a point of pride for many people,”
McKenney’s visit was earlier in the day before Assefa’s attempts to repair the defaced mural were again defaced. In an interview with the Velvet Studio Alex Stewart commented on a photo he posted to Facebook, in it he said “So I came to see this today, and I was confronted by a (white) man with paint who screamed “all lives matter” and threw red paint all over the mural. Let me be clear: Focusing on groups that genuinely receive racial discrimination does not impede or reduce the rights of the majority. It just changes the dialogue to include those who don’t always have a voice.”
Alex Stewart also told VS that he was with Ottawa Centre NDP candidate Paul Dewar at the time, (we are awaiting comment). Stewart described the man as “5’10, mid thirty and Caucasian with messy hair”. Stewart’s description had a similarity to the description given by R.J Jones to CTV about the defacing of the Sandra Bland Mural ““I would say they were approaching (their) thirties,” says Jones. One was a little larger with glasses and another one had a beard. That’s all I saw.”
When asked what the man appeared like Stewart went on to say “I don’t think it’s blatant racism. More [an] odd an ignorance…The way he spoke was as if he was doing the right thing. He thought he was correcting an injustice”
Multiple news sources quoted an ongoing police investigation, a Police Spokesperson had said “it was too early to describe the damage as a hate crime, “but if it looks like it’s going in that direction, we’ll follow it.”
The Velvet Studio will follow the story