How Corey Fleischer found meaning in erasing hate
Removing hate symbols 'is like drugs,' says Fleischer, who cleans up graffiti in his spare time
On an overcast afternoon, Corey Fleischer is kneeling in front of a swastika etched into a downtown Montreal sidewalk.
"I'm dedicating this to the 11 people who were massacred at the synagogue in Pittsburgh."
He then covers up the swastika with cement using a trowel.
"And just like that, your hate is gone," he says.
Fleischer is recording the moment on his cellphone so he can share it with his 33,000 followers on Instagram.
"This is what makes me feel complete as a person," he says afterwards.
Sightings reported via social media
For nine years, Fleischer has been running Erasing Hate, an initiative that combines graffiti removal and social media to erase hate symbols from public spaces.
He learns about hate graffiti around the city via social media, where people report sightings to him.
Then, in his spare time, he drives out to the site and removes the hate symbols using the tools he already owns thanks to his day job — running a graffiti removal company.
Fleischer says the feeling he gets when removing hate symbols "is like drugs…It's an extremely euphoric feeling. It's something that I've never been able to explain."
Watch our story about Corey Fleischer traveling around Montreal removing hate symbols:
Fleischer removed his first hate symbol nine years ago. He was on his way to a client's house in the suburbs. While driving along Monkland Avenue in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, he noticed a swastika painted on a concrete block.
Fleischer kept on driving but when he got to the job site, he couldn't shake the regret he felt by doing nothing about the griffiti.
He told the owner of the house that his machine had broken down and that he'd return tomorrow to finish the work.
"I went back to Monkland and I erased my first swastika."
Dozens of hate crimes
Hate incidents in Montreal are not uncommon. According to the Montreal police service, so far this year 172 hate crimes have been reported — 71 of those were related to religion. Most of those incidents, 36 of them, were directed at Jews while 33 of them were towards Muslims.
Last year's figures were higher. Montreal police handled 250 reported hate crimes. Of those, 59 were directed towards Muslims and 42 were anti-Semitic.
Fleischer is now working at taking his movement global.
In the coming weeks he plans to release an Erasing Hate app that would let anyone with an iOs or Android smartphone report hate graffiti.
The app would allow users to send photos and the geolocation of hate graffiti to Fleischer, who would then use his social media presence to find volunteers to remove it.
Already he's used his large social media following to inspire people to remove hate in Paris and Los Angeles.
"We remove hate anywhere in the world, free of charge."