With coloured chalk in hand, students from Delta Secondary helped turn a message of hate into one of love and inclusion.
Following the news Saturday that the pride flag hanging outside Ladner United Church had been defaced for the second time in two weeks, Grade 8 student Heather Thwaits and her older sister Alex (Grade 11) came up with the idea to spread something positive.
They reached out to their friends and on Monday after school close to 20 students coloured and presented messages of love on the sidewalks, steps and stone pillars out front of the 48th Avenue church.
Both girls have been members of the church since they were born.
“It’s really disappointing to see this,” said Heather. “Ladner has been really accepting, so it’s sad to see this once and now twice.”
The church’s trustee and leadership council co-chair Sue King said it was heartwarming to see students take this kind of action.
“Some in the community jump to the conclusion that it’s the kids’ fault, but it’s not always the kids,” King said. “These are wonderful teenagers and they wanted to make a positive statement and do what they could to say they are in support of the LGBTQ+ community.”
When news broke of the first pride flag being defaced June 2, there was a collective outcry of anger and frustration throughout the community. That outcry continued on social media last Saturday when the second flag was defaced with several residents offering to pay for surveillance cameras for the church, while others suggested that residents and businesses should join together in solidarity and flood the community with pride flags.
At its Sunday service following the defacing of the first flag, Ladner United invited the public to its congregation to sign words of love and support. On Monday, that signed flag was hung at the entrance to the church.
The church’s leadership council will be meeting tonight (Thursday) to discuss its next steps.
“It is our regular meeting and certainly the idea of a surveillance camera, as sad as it is, will be on the agenda,” said King. “We are getting offers from all over the place for different things, including from someone to hook up the camera for us.
“People are dismayed and upset because we have had the flag up there for the past five years. We hang up the refugee flag. I don’t know how offensive a flag could be. The pride flag is an inclusive flag. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
King said she was at another event on Saturday when she received a call about the second flag being defaced.
“We wanted to get the first flag back up as soon as possible,” she said. “Despite what has happened, we are fortunate that we live in a wonderful community and that people really do embrace one another. We are an inclusive church and we embrace everyone. This has been upsetting. This has been my church for 40 years and I have had nothing like this ever happen before.”
Delta police confirmed with the Optimist that both incidents have been reported to police.
“This new incident is an active investigation. As such, we can’t comment on aspects of it, such as suspects or techniques that could be used, etc.,” said DPD public affairs coordinator Cris Leykauf.
“We wouldn’t want to make any assumptions at this point regarding whether or not both instances are related. Of course it’s something that we will keep in mind, but investigations must be undertaken in a way that ensures officers are open to a wide range of information and possibilities.”
Following the first flag defacing, the City of Delta joined with the police and fire departments and city employees to raise a pride flag for the first time at city hall in Ladner. The Delta School District also held a short ceremony with its staff and trustees and did the same.
Mayor George Harvie took to Twitter Saturday night to post his disappointment of the latest incident.
“Extremely upset & disappointed to hear that another Pride flag at Ladner United Church was defaced. This community will not tolerate such despicable acts. #DeltaBCstands in solidarity with Ladner United Church & the LGBTQ+ community.”