VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – After finding a swastika and Nazi eagle drawn on his Vancouver building, one man says he’s noticed a spike in hate over the last year.
Graham Williams says he noticed the detailed swastika and eagle as he left to walk his dog around Hastings and Abbott streets, Sunday.
“This was not a casual job. You see swastikas scrawled on things sometimes; somebody took the time to actually do this well, which is probably one of the most frustrating things,” he explains, adding the graffiti appeared to have been drawn in chalk.
Williams tells NEWS 1130 he snapped a few photos and reported it to a nearby police officer, whose response was “immediate.”
He received a case number, was able to forward the officer the pictures he had taken, and was told police would follow up on the matter right away.
But this type of incident is happening too often, he says.
“I’ve seen a lot of graffiti in the area recently, and there’s been some anti-nazi graffiti, which, usually, not a problem. Swastikas, though, if they’re popping up, I think it’s going to be a problem for the neighbourhood,” Williams adds.
Sure it's just chalk (this time) – but one resident ays he can see a Confederate flag from his own window, hears hate speech all around him and worries a small group of "angry, bored" people are victimizing LGBTQ and minorities in the DTES. More on @NEWS1130 this morning https://t.co/xkA6z7QLPJ
— Ash 'I work from home now' Kelly (@AshDKelly) October 19, 2020
He says there’s been a “real rise” in racist rhetoric in the area recently.
“We’re hearing things on the street, things that you would not have heard a year ago. People are using language and words that I find absolutely abhorrent,” Williams says.
“There are a lot of folks in this area who are visible minorities, LGBTQ, and we’ve heard a lot of language directed towards folks like us who are really just looking at that and saying, ‘We want to be treated like human beings,'” he says.
“The language that we’re hearing right now, the imagery that we’re seeing, the iconography that we’re seeing, the attitude that we’re seeing — it’s out of control.”
Williams notes increasing violence, like stabbings, pepper sprayings, arsons, and shootings, has everyone on edge. As the number of residents on the Downtown Eastside grows, he says things are only getting worse.
However, despite the issues, he says the vast majority of residents — homeless or not — are good people.
Graffiti appeared after weekend of ‘Freedom’ rallies
“There is a small subset of folks in this area who have decided they are going to make victims of everyone. And, it has become almost untenable.”
Williams says it could be possible that someone participating in far-right, anti-mask rallies over the weekend may be responsible for the chalk swastika and eagle, but feels it was more than likely a resident.
On Saturday, a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered, unmasked, shoulder-to-shoulder in downtown Vancouver for the “B.C. Freedom Mega Rally” to protest “censorship, lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, quarantines, travel bans, social distancing, contact tracing, and government orders.”
According to an open letter from the Vancouver District Labour Council, the “Freedom Rally” and another “Freedom Convoy” were events that were using the guise of COVID-19 to “coalesce formerly disparate fringe groups.”
Now, Williams is calling on the mayor and council to take immediate action.
“This is not the Vancouver we know. This is not the Vancouver that I think anyone wants to live in. It’s no longer safe and they need to do something,” Williams says.
He adds he’s been attacked twice, his partner has been threatened and someone tried to “soccer-kick” their dog.
He wants city and council to move faster to house those in need and says without more services an supports, there could be even worse violence to come.
-With files from Lisa Steacy