News / Ottawa

‘Cowards’ vandalized Ottawa mural tribute to trans women of colour

Vandals also targeted artist Kalkidan Assefa’s downtown mural honouring Sandra Bland in July.

Artist Kalkidan Assefa stands next to his mural on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, which was vandalized overnight with the words

Joe Lofaro/Metro

Artist Kalkidan Assefa stands next to his mural on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, which was vandalized overnight with the words "All lives matter. No double standard. You’ve been warned.”

A mural painted as a tribute to trans women of colour, including the names of murdered trans women, was vandalized overnight with violent graffiti.

The words “racist bulls---“ and “All lives matter. No double standard. You’ve been warned” were written with red spray paint at the intersection of Bank and Somerset Streets.

Kalkidan Assefa, a local artist who has worked on other anti-racist murals in Ottawa, created the mural during the 30th anniversary of the city’s Capital Pride celebrations last month. It was a collaboration with anti-racism activist group, Black Collectiv.

“Whoever did this, they’re cowards because they’re going around in the dark at night and they’re not willing to publicly come and say whatever they feel,” said Assefa, as others worked on covering up the threatening messages.

“I think it’s disappointing, it’s sad, it’s frustrating. It’s not the first time work that we’ve done in the city has been attacked like this along some racial lines.”

He said he worked on another mural, one that honoured Sandra Bland, which was also defaced with the words “all lives matter” in July.  Writing all lives matter on a mural dedicated to Black people is inherently problematic because it’s an erasure, he said.

“We’ve already dealt with it with the Sandra Bland (mural) where you can’t say ‘all lives matter’ while you’re literally defacing and disrespecting the face of a dead woman. And then here we have the names of these murdered people and then you’re coming and writing ‘all lives matter’ as if they’re lives don’t matter all over their names,” said Assefa.

He added whoever is responsible needs to be better educated on the significance of the “Black lives matter” movement.

Before the vandalism took place, Coun. Catherine McKenney and members of the community were trying to find a permanent home for the mural.

McKenney came to see the mural in person Wednesday afternoon as it was being covered up in white paint. She called it “one of the most beautiful murals” in her neighbourhood.

She said she contacted Ottawa police as soon as she learned what had happened to it Wednesday morning.

“It was hugely distressing when I first saw the mural. It was a point of pride for many people,” said McKenney.

“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.”

Ottawa police said they are investigating since a complaint was filed early Thursday afternoon.

There is a hate crime section of Ottawa police, but spokesman Const. Marc Soucy said officers at the scene must investigate the mural first before they consider whether or not to pass it on the specialized unit.

Police will have to consider, among other things, what the motive was behind the incident before ruling it as a hate crime, said Soucy.

Community members expressed their outrage Wednesday on social media with posts tagged with the hashtag #notmyottawa.

“Makes me sick to my stomach. #notmyottawa indeed!!! Was hoping to see this mural find a permanent place. Too late!” wrote Twitter user Amie Beausoleil.  

Laurie K wrote, “This is beyond disgusting. #notmyottawa.”

A mural painted as a tribute to trans women of colour, including the names of murdered trans women, was vandalized overnight with violent graffiti.

The words “racist bulls---“ and “All lives matter. No double standard. You’ve been warned” were written with red spray paint at the intersection of Bank and Somerset Streets.

Kalkidan Assefa, a local artist who has worked on other anti-racist murals in Ottawa, created the mural during the 30th anniversary of the city’s Capital Pride celebrations last month. It was a collaboration with anti-racism activist group, Black Collectiv.

“Whoever did this, they’re cowards because they’re going around in the dark at night and they’re not willing to publicly come and say whatever they feel,” said Assefa, as others worked on covering up the threatening messages.

“I think it’s disappointing, it’s sad, it’s frustrating. It’s not the first time work that we’ve done in the city has been attacked like this along some racial lines.”

He said he worked on another mural, one that honoured Sandra Bland, which was also defaced with the words “all lives matter” in July.  Writing all lives matter on a mural dedicated to Black people is inherently problematic because it’s an erasure, he said.

“We’ve already dealt with it with the Sandra Bland (mural) where you can’t say ‘all lives matter’ while you’re literally defacing and disrespecting the face of a dead woman. And then here we have the names of these murdered people and then you’re coming and writing ‘all lives matter’ as if they’re lives don’t matter all over their names,” said Assefa.

He added whoever is responsible needs to be better educated on the significance of the “Black lives matter” movement.

Before the vandalism took place, Coun. Catherine McKenney and members of the community were trying to find a permanent home for the mural.

McKenney came to see the mural in person Wednesday afternoon as it was being covered up in white paint. She called it “one of the most beautiful murals” in her neighbourhood.

She said she contacted Ottawa police as soon as she learned what had happened to it Wednesday morning.

“It was hugely distressing when I first saw the mural. It was a point of pride for many people,” said McKenney.

“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.”

Ottawa police said they are investigating since a complaint was filed early Thursday afternoon.

There is a hate crime section of Ottawa police, but spokesman Const. Marc Soucy said officers at the scene must investigate the mural first before they consider whether or not to pass it on the specialized unit.

Police will have to consider, among other things, what the motive was behind the incident before ruling it as a hate crime, said Soucy.

Community members expressed their outrage Wednesday on social media with posts tagged with the hashtag #notmyottawa.

“Makes me sick to my stomach. #notmyottawa indeed!!! Was hoping to see this mural find a permanent place. Too late!” wrote Twitter user Amie Beausoleil.  

Laurie K wrote, “This is beyond disgusting. #notmyottawa.”

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