Miramichi rainbow sidewalk defaced twice in one month
The Miramichi Police Force is monitoring the situation
A symbol of solidarity with LGBTQ citizens of Miramichi, painted rainbow stamps near City Hall, was defaced twice with tire skid marks and white paint since it was drawn in May.
"The first time it was vandalized a couple of weeks ago, was when someone had run over it in their car, with heavy tire skid marks on them," said Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon, who helped high school students draw the stamps on May 18.
"Overwhelmingly, when they were first painted, it was just so positively received in the community," he said. "We had hundreds of people on social media reaching out to myself and the students."
Lordon added that Miramichi is usually progressive and open, but the vandalism stirred violent comments online.
Hateful online comments
Miramichi blogger Kylie Stewart, who runs a Facebook Live page called Miramichi Nightline, found a closed Facebook group where someone had reposted a news story on the vandalism.
The comment thread was filled with homophobic comments, some brutal and violent, she said.
Stewart's page has 4,000 followers, many from the Miramichi area.
She reposted screen grabs of the Facebook thread with the caption "Freedom of speech only protects you from expressing your opinion as long as it's not hate speech."
"Saying things like 'I always wanted to commit a hate crime' is unacceptable!,'" the post read.
They can learn from this, they can grow from this, they can say I screwed up, apologize, and move forward.- Kylie Stewart
"The comments were pretty hateful and I felt the need to share that with the public," Stewart said on Friday afternoon.
Some of the commenters later contacted her and said the comments were "just a joke, or that they didn't mean it," she added.
On Friday evening, Stewart also posted two screenshots on her page of private messages she received from people who apologized for their comments on the Facebook thread.
An issue behind closed doors
Stewart, a transgender woman, said homophobia is not an issue in Miramichi when she's "walking down the street." But it is a problem behind closed doors, and online, she said.
"I have felt scared. You know, I had a lot of backlash from the individuals involved and at this time, I did what I had to do and brought it out there. That's all I can do," said Stewart.
"This is their chance to learn from this and not let this define their life. They can learn from this, they can grow from this, they can say I screwed up, apologize, and move forward."
The Miramichi Police Force is monitoring the situation, but no formal complaint has been made.