News / Ottawa

Ottawa activists 'take over' legal graffiti wall

Despite its location on a legal graffiti wall, a Tuesday-night painting of the words “Black Lives Matter” didn’t last long on the "Tech Wall" at Bronson Avenue and Slater Street.

“We were letting people know we’re here,” said Adae Baj, a member of the activist group BlakCollectiv who spent Tuesday night helping to paint the wall white with block letters.

She said racism in Ottawa may be less overt than in the United States, where the Black Lives Matter movement started, but it still exists.

The collective chose the wall because it was a large and central public space.

But some regulars at the Tech Wall were unimpressed with the work, arriving early Wednesday with white paint and rollers.

Artist Mike Gall admitted it seems hypocritical for graffiti artists to be crying vandalism, but said regulars were frustrated to find their work was painted over.

“I’m all for people protesting, but think of what you’re doing first,” he said.

Gall said the graffiti expression "burn or take your turn" refers to the idea that you don’t paint over the work of more skilled artists.

“It’s our community that’s been painting here for so long, and we take offense to stuff like this, no matter what the cause,” he said.

Baj said that attitude is ironic, saying that graffiti art stems from black culture.

“If you think your piece of art is more important than black people dying then you’re approaching this in the wrong way.”