Shop owner says she's target of hate crimes for being a witch, selling pagan products
Dominique Smith is fed up with people spitting, urinating and breaking windows on her shop
A West End business owner and self-identified witch says her store has been repeatedly vandalized over the past six years and she wants police to investigate the incidents as hate crimes.
Dominique Smith owns Elemental Book & Curiosity Shop Inc on Langside. She says her shop's window was broken for the third time this past Sunday night and she's had enough.
"Right from day one we would have people coming into the store harassing, telling us that we were evil and needed to repent," said Smith.
Smith sells alternative spirituality products such as herbs, crystals, incense, books and tarot cards for the practice of witchcraft, occult and pagan rituals. She also teaches classes out of the business and occasionally has gatherings for worship and rituals.
Smith says she's had to clean spit and urine off of her door and windows countless times over the past few years.
"We've also had religious pamphlets that talked about witchcraft being evil, and things like we steal your children at Halloween to ritually sacrifice them and things like that," she said.
"I know it comes from a place of ignorance, but it's 2017, this is not 1717. We should be better than this, and it's disappointing that we're not."
Smith has reported the broken windows to police but says she feels her complaints are not being taken seriously.
"Because it's just vandalism it's just deemed as mischief and unimportant," she said.
Smith wants police to treat the vandalism as a hate crime, because she feels the store has been targeted for religious reasons.
"It's just an overall feeling that we're being targeted because of the kinds of products that we sell and because of what we offer," she said.
"It's not one independent incident, it's a combination of all these incidences over a period of time, that shows a pattern of disrespect and intolerance," said Smith.
Smith has been at the shop on Langside Street since 2010 and says her neighbours have not had similar experiences.
"To my knowledge, the only time anyone has ever had any issues is where it's a direct break-in," she said.
"I don't have my retail neighbours getting their doors urinated on or having their windows spit on or their windows just being broken."
The West End Biz says that this type of damage is rare for the area and are working with Smith to find solutions.
"I was really disturbed to hear that that kind of behaviour is happening. The West End is such an inclusive group of businesses and community residences," said Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner, executive director with the West End Business Improvement Zone.
Police not ready to call it a hate crime
Winnipeg Police say the file has been forwarded to detectives and it's too early to label the incident a hate crime.
According to police, a hate crime involving property would require the commission of the mischief to be based on bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
There are several surveillance cameras in the area and Smith hopes police will try and catch whoever is responsible.
Smith says she has also been targeted in her home and she does fear for her safety because the behaviour seems to have escalated in the past two years.
"All spiritual practices have a place in our community and nobody should be subjected to this kind of treatment regardless," she said.
Smith says as a small business owner she can't afford to fix her windows or install security cameras.
"If this becomes a greater problem and continues I'm just going to close," said Smith.