Businesses along Pembina Highway hit with swastikas, other graffiti overnight
Winnipeg police say they're investigating the incidents
Paul Clerkin was one of more than a dozen business owners who showed up to an unwelcome surprise at work on Wednesday morning, after several shops along Pembina Highway were covered with spray-painted writing and symbols that included several swastikas.
Clerkin, a co-owner of Stone Angel Brewing Company near Bishop Grandin Boulevard, spent part of his morning scrubbing graffiti from the windows of his business and the Tehran Cafe next door.
Both also had swastikas sprayed on their front sidewalks — a symbol Clerkin said would only have been left there by "scumbags."
"I have no time for any of this kind of stuff," Clerkin said.
"Odds are these are just teenagers going through bloody growing pains and think they're being hard and big and provocative. And in reality, they're just small-minded little bigots."
He said the vandalism appeared to have happened overnight, since he left the brewery around 10 p.m. Tuesday and one of his business partners found the graffiti around 7 a.m. Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said police are investigating the incidents.
While several shops in the nine-unit strip mall were vandalized, only three were hit with swastikas, Clerkin said.
Those shops were his brewery, Tehran Cafe and nearby bubble tea shop Gong Cha, which had one of the hate symbols scrawled on its window. Clerkin said that made him worry the vandalism was fuelled by racism or xenophobia.
"Why would you do the bubble tea place and then skip the dentist, the chiro[practor], the car part shop, and then hit the [Tehran Cafe]," he said.
"Doesn't make sense to me that you would do that. And then you're in this corner and you do ours just for fun."
Just north of that strip mall, VJoy Beverage and Dessert Restaurant — another bubble tea shop — was also hit with antisemitic graffiti, with a swastika sprayed on the side of the building.
Tehran Cafe owner Maryam Nadmeh said she's not convinced her shop was the one targeted since so many were hit, but she does want to know who tagged her business — and why.
"They have to take responsibility for this. Because ... this is not funny. It's already hard for business. So this is something on top of everything," Nadmeh said.
'Can't let our guard down'
The vandalism comes the same day the federal government is holding a national summit on antisemitism.
Adam Levy, a spokesperson for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, called that timing ironic. He said the organization was "shocked and disappointed" to see the swastikas.
"It's a symbol that evokes fear and it is a universal symbol of hatred," Levy said over the phone Wednesday afternoon.
"It has no place in Canadian society."
He said the incident also underscores the need for action on antisemitic and other hate speech.
"History has taught us that those who target Jews don't stop there, as exemplified by this incident in which several ethnic and religious establishments were targeted with swastikas," Levy said.
That's why it's important for all Canadians to denounce hate speech when they see it, he said.
"We can't let our guard down. We have to remain vigilant so that this type of hate doesn't gain more of a foothold in our community than it already has," Levy said.
Slew of shops, organizations hit
The same red spray paint was seen at a wide variety of businesses along a stretch of Pembina Highway at least three kilometres long.
That included another strip mall past McGillivray Boulevard, where a medical centre, pharmacy and pastry shop were covered with scribbles.
Further south, a gaming store and a Vietnamese restaurant were also hit with spray paint, though no hate symbols and words were seen there Wednesday morning, either.
Nearby, a building housing Canrelocate Immigration Consulting had the words "no you can't" and "f--k off" spray painted over that business's signs. The word "bad" was also written on the sidewalk outside the building's front door.
Next door, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg Catholic Centre was also covered with graffiti. Other businesses just south of there, including a hot pot restaurant and a Thai restaurant, were also left with red scribbles over their windows.
With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Cory Funk