Regina neighbours upset over racist graffiti tags
Vandals sprayed offensive language on fence, garage and playground slide
Charles Kooger says his wife, Marcia, was quite upset after walking the dogs one evening this week after she came across graffiti tags in the alleyway and park near their home in Regina.
Some of the tags said "KKK" and "KKK is great", while others curse and use offensive language, saying "f--k N-words". The message literally and figuratively hits close to home for the Koogers.
"Basically what she said was it felt like a slap in the face, and for me as well," he said, adding that theirs is a multi-cultural family, with children adopted from different parts of the world, so it feels personal.
"Not personal in the sense that it's directed at us, but we have kids and grand kids who are black and half-black, so personal in that sense."
Hateful messages connected to U.S. politics: Kooger
Kooger said he decided to speak out about the tags in the Glencairn neighbourhood because he feels it might have a connection to stories of racism and hate speech he's hearing about after a divisive U.S election.
President-elect Donald Trump's campaign has been blamed for fuelling racist rhetoric and xenophobia while attracting support of white nationalists.
This kind of stuff makes people feel unsafe. And it's directed, it's targeted. I think as a community we want to say this is not what we represent, this is not ok where we live.- Charles Kooger
Kooger said in a sense, the racially-charged graffiti is not something he wants to draw attention toward, but he shared his experience in hopes it sheds light on some unsettling attitudes.
"I think that it is kind of indicative of something we're going through as a society now— that the Americans are going through as well— and certainly, what happens there has a deep impact on what happens here in Canada," he said Thursday morning near one of the tagged portions of a fence.
"This kind of stuff makes people feel unsafe. And it's directed, it's targeted. I think as a community we want to say this is not what we represent, this is not OK where we live."
Regina Police want to hear about tags— racist or otherwise
The Regina police say they want to know about all graffiti in the city— whether the messages are racist or not. The police service's graffiti coordinator appreciates any reports of tags for keeping track of how often it's happening, and to determine whether anything can be done to prevent it.
"I wouldn't say we've had more instances of racism in graffiti since the U.S. election," spokesperson Les Parker.
While police can't speak for graffiti that isn't reported, their stats show at this point in the past five years there were an average of 400 reports of graffiti. In 2014, there were 350 incidents of graffiti. In 2015 there were 474 and this year there are 376 reported incidents.
This year's number of reports are down 21 per cent from the same point in 2015.
Kooger said he hadn't reported the tags to police but he had consulted with the City of Regina about the rules and responsibilities around having it cleaned up.
Tags unusual in area, fence owner says
CBC reporters knocked on Stanley Bowes' front door near the site of the graffiti.
"News to me," he said, as he unlocked his back fence and surveyed the damage. "Well, I'll be damned."
Prior to that, he was unaware his property had become a vandal's target. He said tags in the property once or twice in the past 40 or so years, but it's not a usual sight in his area. Kooger said the same of his perception of crime in the area.
"They've got precious little to do, that's what I can say about that," Bowes said of the person writing the messages. "Everybody's entitled to live, but just how they go about living is another story."
"I don't know what they're gaining by doing it... You don't like to see it at all," he said, adding that he's planning to report it to police right away.
Starting conversation about inclusion
Kooger said thinking the tags may have been painted by minors is not a comforting thought.
"It is serious. It's something that's indicative of people who do not understand what strong foundations in life and family and community are all about."
While Kooger says he doesn't personally feel unsafe, he's not one of the people targeted in the messages, so he's not sure it's fair for him to say so. And while he hasn't seen such overt racism targeting black people in his area, he's heard of overt racism facing his friends who are Indigenous, and other people of colour or religious minorities.
He says part of his decision to speak out about the tags was so people could start an important conversation about race and inclusion in Regina.
"All of us need to search our hearts and be aware of our own thoughts and attitudes and opinions and how can we be the kind of people we want to be in our community?"