Chatham-Kent Police are investigating hate-motivated vandalism against the gay community

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DRESDEN – Chatham-Kent Police are investigating derogatory messages against the LGBTQ+2S community found in a park here as a hate-motivated incident.

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DRESDEN — Chatham-Kent Police are investigating after anti-gay slurs were found scrawled on several picnic tables in a park here.

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On Sunday, officers were called about vandalism in the Stranak Conservation Area and found several derogatory messages directed at the 2SLGBTQ+ community written in red permanent marker on the tables.

“The Chatham-Kent Police Department is investigating this mischief as a hate-motivated incident due to the nature of the messages,” police said in a news release Tuesday.

The department’s public information officer, Sgt. Lynette Hodder said the messages also included threats of violence.

“We consider this to be a hate-motivated incident because it negatively targets a specific group of people in our community,” she said Tuesday. “I haven’t seen the messages but can only relay that they are derogatory and include violence.”

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Police have urged anyone in the area with surveillance cameras to check their footage between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday for possible evidence.

Hodder said these types of incidents often go unreported for a number of reasons, so police statistics don’t accurately reflect their frequency.

“We encourage anyone who discovers or witnesses such acts to contact us as soon as possible,” she said.

The vandalism comes just days after Pride celebrations were held across the Chatham-Kent community.

Marianne Willson, president of the Chatham-Kent Gay Pride Association, said she found any display of hate to be “distressing”.

She also suggested that these messages could be “calls for help” from someone in distress.

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“I think these kinds of incidents just show us that there is still work to be done. There are more conversations to be had,” Willson said.

“There are more resources we need to bring to the community to help people who feel so distressed that they act in this way.”

She said the majority of Chatham-Kent residents are allies and supporters of diversity, inclusion, equity and justice.

There has been a growing wave of support for diversity and inclusion of all people, not just the 2SLGBTQ community, she added.

“That’s why we’re bringing a rainbow crosswalk to Dresden,” she said. “It was the community that asked for it. We are on their side to support this.

Although the hate messages have since been removed from the tables, police have acknowledged the “significant” impacts they could have on members of the Chatham-Kent community. Chatham-Kent Victim Services can help connect people with the appropriate resources, police added.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Const. Doug Littlewood at [email protected] Anonymous calls can also be made to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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