Tuesday August 22, 2017

Citizen defiant after Quebec township refuses to remove swastika painted on anchor in park

An anchor in a Pointe-des-Cascades, Que. park is adorned with a swastika. The mayor said the anchor dates back to before the Second World War.

An anchor in a Pointe-des-Cascades, Que. park is adorned with a swastika. The mayor said the anchor dates back to before the Second World War. (Erasing Hate)

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Corey Fleischer thought he was doing the right thing by removing a swastika painted on an old anchor in a small Quebec town. Instead, he says the local mayor threatened to have him removed from the premises.

He runs a graffiti removal company called Provincial Power Washing, but also as the founder of Erasing Hate, he regularly removes hate symbols spray painted on property like garage doors or mailboxes for free.

Last week, he received a tip about a swastika painted on an anchor in a park in Pointe-des-Cascades, Que., just outside Montreal. He had all the necessary equipment. Then, he says, the local mayor showed up.

"The village of Pointe-des-Cascades does not endorse Nazism. Our village has a beautiful community and family spirit, and creates events that bring people together," Gilles Santerre, mayor of Pointe-des-Cascades, told CBC Montreal. Santerre committed to placing a more descriptive plaque next to the anchor to clarify the local history behind its placement in the park.

Fleisher described the encounter on Tuesday to As It Happens guest host Jim Brown.

Corey Fleischer

Graffiti removal specialist Corey Fleischer says he removes one swastika in Montreal almost every day. (Corey Fleischer )

Could you describe this anchor and the swastika for us? 

I got a report from one of my followers that he had seen a swastika in a park ... When I got to the park I basically saw something that I had never seen before. It was a World War 2-era anchor sitting in the middle of a public family park, painted tri-coloured — beige, white and black — to enhance the swastika.

So this is a little different than a swastika spray painted on a garage door or on a mailbox?

It's extremely different. This is a public place. This is a place where people come to convene of all different cultures, to have a sign like this in a public place in 2017 is extremely unacceptable.

What did you do when you saw this swastika painted on this anchor?

The fact that I knew it was a Nazi swastika on this anchor, I was going to remove it. During that process, the mayor showed up to the park.

And what did the mayor say?

The mayor threatened me to get out of the park. He told me that if I didn't get out of the park he was going to call the police. Little did he know that his bullying tactics had literally zero effect on me. I continued removing the Nazi symbol that was painted on this World War 2-era, and he phoned the police.

He told the police that I was leaving, and I told him, I'm not going nowhere. I said I'm sitting here for the next however long it takes, for the police to show up, so that I can show them this hate crime that's been sitting in this park for the past 25 years.

Corey Fleischer

Corey Fleischer removes homophobic graffiti along a highway in Montreal. (Corey Fleischer )

The mayor told me he was going to repaint the swastika exactly the way it was, with a white circle on the back and with black lines. I told him if he did that, that I would be back the next day to come and remove it again, and that I would come the next day after that, and the next day after that, and that I will never stop. 

This is the Canadian version of the confederate statues coming down. We are going to fight as hard as we can and we are going to get this anchor pulled out of this park and put into a museum, a proper museum, one where people know what they're getting into. And until that happens, we're not going to stop.

'This is the Canadian version of the confederate statues coming down.' - Corey Fleischer

So have you been charged with defacing public property?

Well, everything is in the air. I was handed a piece of paper to promise to appear in court, but right now, on all legal statements and all legal matters, everything has to be directed to my lawyer.

So you don't know what trouble you're in, if any?

Well, worst case scenario it's damaging property, for removing the paint that the city had put there, but if anything I was helping the city.

This is a public park where people pay taxes. can you imagine that there might be a [Holocaust] survivor, who lives in Pointe-des-Cascades who is paying his or her taxes in order to have the city paint this swastika with a white circle and black lines so that it's a Nazi symbol?