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[UPDATE] Local senior under investigation after Pride crosswalk vandalized

A New West senior is under investigation after witnesses say they saw him pour white paint on the newly-installed Pride crosswalk Monday night. The incident happened just after 8 p.m.
Pride crosswalk

A New West senior is under investigation after witnesses say they saw him pour white paint on the newly-installed Pride crosswalk Monday night.

The incident happened just after 8 p.m. at the intersection of Church and Columbia streets, according to Insp. Todd Matsumoto.

“The elderly guy just walked out there and just kind of threw paint,” he told the Record. “He wasn’t painting messages or anything like that. He was located by police and he was arrested at the time.”

Matsumoto added the 91-year-old man’s arrest happened a short distance from the scene. The man was taken to hospital for an evaluation and is currently being investigated for mischief.

Charges, meanwhile, have not been laid against the local resident, Matsumoto said.

“We’re going to be submitting a Crown counsel report and recommending charges. I don’t know what those charges are,” he noted.

If the Crown approves the charges, the man’s name will be released.

Mayor Jonathan Cote found out about the vandalism through Coun. Patrick Johnstone, who had been in the area when it happened.

“I think it’s really sad, but it highlights that there’s a reason we need to still be fighting for gay and lesbian rights,” Cote said. “There still is, unfortunately, some hatred out there and we still need to confront that issue. Having said that, I don’t believe this represents New Westminster. I spent all day receiving so many positive comments by email and on social media, and overwhelmingly heard great support from the community.”

Jeremy Perry, president of the New West Pride Society, echoed the same sentiments.

“It really illustrates the importance of holding Pride festivals so people can know that intolerance just isn’t acceptable in our communities,” he said.

The rainbow-coloured panel was installed in front of Heritage Grill on Sunday night. It’s one of many initiatives the city is rolling out to celebrate New West Pride Week and the LGBTQ community.

“We recognize that we are such a diverse community and we’re becoming more and more diverse,” said Cote. “I think it’s important for the city to really celebrate that diversity because I think that’s what makes New Westminster such a great place to live.”

The idea of a Pride crosswalk came up during a recent council meeting, Cote added, when members discussed ways to recognize Pride and its significant growth in the city over the last six years. With Vancouver and Victoria already having something similar in place, the decision was an easy one, he added.

Asked about the crosswalk’s location, Cote said it was chosen because it’s seen as the “heart and centre” of the Pride festival and because of its busy foot traffic.

It came as a nice surprise to Perry, who found out about it a few hours before it was installed.

“It’s incredible to live in a community that has this much support for the Pride movement and seeing them want to have such a visual piece in the city, to say that they promote inclusivity and diversity, is just a great thing to be part of,” he said. 

The Pride crosswalk, which has since been cleaned up, is a permanent installation and will be maintained for wear and tear as time goes on, Cote said.

Other city initiatives celebrating Pride week (Aug. 8 to Aug. 15) include raising a rainbow flag at city hall on Aug. 10 and having the Anvil Centre shine in rainbow lights during the week-long festivities.

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