(Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)
A series of hateful vandalism against Windsor-Essex's LGBTQ community has "devastated" Jamie Plouffe.
"I spent all day yesterday crying about it in bed ... it's very disheartening, it's very triggering, it's not something that, you know, even as a member of a queer community you don't want to have to hear about anything happening to a member of the LGBTQ community," Plouffe said.
In just one week, WE Trans Support — located in Windsor's South Walkerville neighbourhood — has filed three reports to Windsor police regarding homophobic and racist vandalism, along with property damage.
On Monday, the organization's executive director Alexander Reid arrived to the location to find that a window had been smashed with a brake router.
Windsor police's morality unit is investigating the incidents it labelled as hate crimes in a news release, but the incidents have left those in the LGBTQ community feeling "disheartened" and "scared."
"If they're comfortable enough to smash a window in pure daylight then who's to say that they're okay attacking somebody in the street? .... I perceive myself as somebody who is very seen in the community, normally I have my face all done up with makeup and I don't usually care about what style of clothing I'm wearing," Plouffe said.
"When I hear things like this and see things like this on social media it makes me wonder how safe I am in my community. Even just walking down the street alone, it instills fear in a lot of us I feel like."
Hate crimes are 'not tolerated'
According to Windsor police public information officer Darius Goze, the morality unit is called in to thoroughly investigate any hate crimes and it specifically takes note of any vandalism that "promotes hatred messages against [an] identifiable group."
Goze was unable to say how frequently hate crimes occur in Windsor, but said he wants the community to know that they are "not tolerated."
"We have a very diverse community in Windsor and we should be very proud of that," he said. "[Hate crimes] have a harmful impact not only on the victim but for the community in general."
Hope and solidarity
Coordinator of the University of Windsor's Campus Pride Centre Aanand Arya called the incidents "disturbing" and says others in the community are feeling a bit of "despair."
"I think a lot of people think of Canada as a really tolerant and accepting place and that there's no such thing as this kind of thing in the 21st century," he said.
"[But] it's not necessarily surprising to members of the queer and trans community who see this kind of discrimination occur much more often than people on the outside see it."
What he's appreciated during this time is seeing local organizations or community members express "hope and solidarity."
He said his community is resilient and strong and these actions will only encourage them to stand up for one another.
But at the same time, both Arya and Plouffe said these incidents show that there's still people to educate.
"We can call it hate, absolutely and that's what it is, but it's also ignorance," Arya said. "I think letting something like this go and be pushed under the rug is only going to hurt the situation and embolden more people to do stuff like this."
He added that the person or group responsible for these crimes should make a public apology.