Two Maple Ridge city councillors went out late Sunday evening, out past midnight, to clean up some hateful graffiti on a downtown statue.
“It took two minutes with an eraser bar to make it go away,” said Coun. Ryan Svendsen, lamenting that someone hadn’t done the job earlier Sunday, as soon as was spotted.
The SmartCentres penguin statue facing the Lougheed Highway had its white belly painted with a swastika and racist, anti-gay wording. SmartCentres owns the Haney Place Mall in the downtown.
“I see graffiti, but not at that level. It was pretty bad,” said Svendsen.
The very public nature of the graffiti made it a story in the provincial media, to the chagrin of both city councillors.
“That’s not a reflection of our community,” said Coun. Chelsa Meadus, who took on the job with Svendsen, after learning about it at 11 p.m. on Sunday. “It was so disturbing to me, and to Ryan too.
“We’re in the news now, people are offended, and this impacts what people think of our community.”
A man who works as a barber in Maple Ridge told a Vancouver-based television station that he complained about the offensive graffiti to Ridge Meadows RCMP twice before it was removed.
Mayor Mike Morden posted about the issue in social media.
The city is aware and has been actively working on catching criminal acts of graffiti around our community’s downtown…
“The city is aware and has been actively working on catching criminal acts of graffiti around our community’s downtown core,” said Morden. “As the public knows, certainly our downtown regular visitors know as well, we along with many communities, have been plagued with racist and hateful words, and targeted comments towards the police. It is unacceptable and our expectation is those doing this face consequences. I can report the police and our CSO section have been actively working on this file for some time.”
The issue was raised at council earlier in the summer, as the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Association noted a small number of culprits are creating a big problem.
“We know it’s only two or three people – it’s the same graffiti over and over and over again,” said Ineke Boekhorst, executive director of the association.
She said the black spray paint is always the same wording, same letters and same style. It appears regularly, and is most prolific after a weekend.
“It’s really a nuisance, not very attractive, and often not very nice language.”