Mural for murdered transgender women of colour vandalized in Ottawa's centretown

An Ottawa mural honouring murdered transgender women of colour was vandalized with threatening graffiti overnight.

WARNING: images contain language that may be inappropriate for some readers

A mural honouring murdered transgender women of colour was defaced at the corner of Bank and Somerset streets in Ottawa overnight Wednesday. The vandalism has since been painted over. (Kamil Karamali/CBC)

An Ottawa mural honouring murdered transgender women of colour was vandalized with threatening graffiti overnight.

The mural was made during Ottawa's Pride week on the corner of Bank and Somerset streets by a group including artist Kalkidan Assefa.

Part of the mural honouring murdered transgender women of colour near the corner of Bank and Somerset streets, as it was about two weeks ago. (@AnaAlejandrinaM/Twitter)

Sometime Wednesday night, someone spray-painted over much of the mural and wrote "RACIST BULLS--T" "ALL COLORS MATTER" (sic) and "ALL LIVES/NO DOUBLE STANDARD/YOU'VE BEEN WARNED."

Centretown Citizens Community Association president Thomas McVeigh, who owns a restaurant on the block, tweeted a picture of the mural just after 3:10 a.m. Thursday.

"I think there's a certain racist element within Ottawa that doesn't like the form of expression that we're using and they don't like us publicly saying what we're saying, which is that black lives matter," Assefa said Thursday.

"When we're saying 'black lives matter' in an era where we talk specifically about black lives because they're under attack, to erase that and write 'all lives matter' over it that's completely erasing what we're trying to do.

"You can't say you're not racist while you're actively going and crossing out the word 'black' as if black people themselves can't even exist in your sphere of vision."

Somerset councillor Catherine McKenney said her office has contacted the Ottawa police's hate crimes unit about the incident, which she called frightening and tragic.

"Black lives matter, trans lives matter, we have to keep saying it over and over," she said.

"If it brings out this kind of reaction we need to take that as an opportunity to come together as a community to say 'We disagree, there are many many more of us that disagree.' We have to keep the work up."

By Thursday afternoon the defaced mural was redone with the message "if all lives matter then why are the stories of trans women of colour continually erased?"

Other incidents of vandalism

Assefa posted on Instagram Wednesday morning that someone had crossed out the "Black" in "Black Lives Matter" on the Bank and Somerset mural and replaced it with "All", but someone had already fixed it by the time he made it back.

Activist group BlakCollectiv helped create the Bank and Somerset mural, and Assefa also helped create a memorial to Sandra Bland in Ottawa that was defaced in July.

Bland was a black woman officials say committed suicide while in a Texas jail three days after being arrested for a confrontation during a traffic stop.

Her family has questioned the official version of the events that led to her death.

"We actually had one of our other murals at (the same) wall, a native mural done by an indigenous person was just vandalized yesterday," said a member of BlakCollectiv who asked her name not be used.

"This is more of a continuation and they need to stop."

About the Author

Andrew Foote

CBC Reporter

Andrew Foote has been with the CBC since February 2013 after graduating from Carleton University. He can be reached at andrew.foote@cbc.ca or @amkfoote on Twitter.