"Be happy not gay." That message appeared scrawled on the sidewalk in front of several houses around Runnymede Road in Toronto’s west end.
But that was only part of the homophobic vandalism experienced by neighbours recently. The same properties have had dog excrement thrown on them, pride flags stolen and more.
On Thursday the vandalism escalated to slashing car tires and residents are now banding together to confront the anti-gay menace in their neighbourhood.
It began around Toronto’s Pride Parade earlier this summer. Michael Hunter, one of the neighbours targeted, was flying the rainbow flag, an international symbol of support for gay rights. That week, he noticed the anti-gay graffiti outside his home.
"We contacted police, they considered it a hate crime," said Hunter. "We learned then there were a couple of other houses that experienced it." He said he scrubbed off the homophobic message from the sidewalk with a wire brush.
When vandals made off with Pascal Murphy’s pride flag, he replaced it and mounted it higher on his house, out of reach of whoever might take it again.
But the vandalism continued and Murphy woke up on Thursday to find that Ford Escape, sitting in his front driveway, had two slashed tires. Police are investigating.
"We’re not going to stop supporting the queer community," said Sarah Harrison, who has also been targeted.
To prove her point, Harrison and neighbours have ordered 100 more pride flags, and will hand them out at an upcoming community barbecue.
They hope who or whomever is vandalizing their homes will be at the barbecue not only to accept a pride flag but also the gay community.