Less than 24 hours after a two-spirit rainbow crosswalk was installed in Penticton, B.C., negative comments began to circulate on social media and the installation was vandalized.
The City of Penticton quickly responded to the backlash with a joint statement from Penticton’s acting mayor, Helena Konanz, School District 67 chair James Palanio and Penticton Indian Band (PIB) chief, Greg Gabrial.
“Since the installation, there have been many vile comments on social media that highlight the need to show support for all members of our community,” read the statement.
“For the rainbow crosswalk to be a true symbol there needs to be a condemnation of bullying and intolerance. The installation of this symbol is not the end, it is the beginning.”
As of Thursday morning, several skid marks covered the fresh rainbow paint on the crosswalk.
“I know this is an incredibly positive initiative here. We’re proud to have collaborated with the school board and PIB to paint this sidewalk,” said Konanz. “Bullying and intolerance is not acceptable in our city and our community will rise up against. I want to focus on the positive part of this project – but we will not tolerate intolerance in this community.”
“It’s sad that we do have those negative comments, we’re never going to make everybody happy,” said Palanio. “But I think with these students starting these initiatives at early ages that everyone will understand inclusion and diversity.”
Chief Gabrial was unable for an interview.
Penticton Resident, Ajeet Brar, took to social media to express his concerns, after discovering the tracks on the crosswalk Thursday morning.
“The vandalism shows, not necessarily that it’s the majority’s view of Penticton but that there is a minority and a need for further action to reinforce our community support,” said Brar.
“I think this really showcases the need and importance for the existence of something like . It kind of dispels that argument about why do we even need this, does this really matter… within 24 hours it was vandalized… this absolutely matters.”
The crosswalk was installed Wednesday and is located across from Queens Park Elementary School whose students brought the idea to council almost a year ago.
The installation represents the LGBTQIA2S+ members of the community.
“They came before city council a year ago I believe and said that this is something that they thought was really important for our community, and for this spot in our community,” said Konanz. “It’s a great location and very symbolic of the initiative that the students brought forward of bringing our community to get together for a project that shows that Penticton is accepting and tolerant.”
Although the installation was vandalized, officials say that shouldn’t be the takeaway from this initiative.
“Focus on the positive,” said Palanio.
“These are all learning experiences and we can look at the feedback and understand that it’s minimal and a lot of these members of this community fully support these initiatives.”
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