After discovering on June 1, that the rainbow sidewalk at the Ponoka United Church had been defaced by vandals, the Ponoka Pride Society and community volunteers got to work cleaning off and repainting the steps the very next day.
The rainbow walkway leading up to the church doors had been splattered by tar, eggs, and some other unknown substance, likely during the night. After a couple of hours of hard scrubbing, it was ready to repaint.
Ponoka Pride Society member Jessica Jones said this was no simple prank, but a calculated message of hate.
“It’s super disheartening. It was obviously premeditated. This is not just some kid, doing a drive by, throwing something,” said Jones.
“This is not just a small thing. It was on June the first, it was a message for the start of Pride Month and we’ve heard it loud and clear, which means that we have a lot of work to do in this town, and we will. We will keep working. This gives us ammunition.”
Jones said she believes there is a correlation between anti-trans comments recently reported in the media by Lacombe-Ponoka MLA elect Jennifer Johnson.
Johnson issued an apology earlier in May, stating she had love and compassion for everyone equally and was “embarrassed” she caused hurt in the way she discussed trans issues.
“I hope that she can see that her words have a direct correlation to what is happening in our community,” said Jones of Johnson. “We need to hear from her about this.”
The society reached out to Johnson about the vandalism and invited her to come help with the clean up, but have not received a response.
The sidewalk at the church was first painted with rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in 2020.
To those responsible for defacing the sidewalk, Jones said, “Stop spreading hate. Stop being unkind … lead with your heart.”
The vandalism was reported to the Ponoka RCMP and they are currently investigating the incident.
While the church doesn’t have surveillance cameras, it is hoped there may be some CTV footage available from nearby buildings, Jones said.
The RCMP is asking the public for assistance in the investigation.
If you have an information regarding this crime or those responsible you are asked to call Ponoka RCMP at 403-783-4471. If you wish to remain anonymous you can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or online at www.tipsubmit.com.
“Until suspects are identified and interviewed, their exact motivations remain unknown,” stated the RCMP release.
“On behalf of the town, we find the vandalism at the Ponoka United Church to be most unfortunate,” said Mayor Kevin Ferguson in a provided statement.
“I believe that this vandal does not represent the sentiments of the majority of people who live in our town. Ponoka has always been, as long as I have lived here, a giving, considerate and welcoming place. It is a shame that one or two have to besmirch the good name of our community.”
The Town of Ponoka is celebrating Pride Month by once again projecting the pride colours onto the outside of the Ponoka Civic Centre each evening in June from sunset until sunrise, beginning on June 5.
“Projecting the pride colours onto the outside of the Ponoka Civic Centre is an act of celebrating Ponoka’s diversity and showing support for the LGBTQIA2S+ community,” said Ferguson in a release.
The Ponoka Pride Society, in partnership with the Ponoka Jubilee Library, is hosting the first-ever Pride in The Park at Ponoka’s Centennial Park on June 10 from 12 to 4 p.m.
The event for all ages will include games, kindness awards, an open mic on the main stage, a rainbow balloon arch, a best dressed contest, free hot dog barbecue, tea party, popcorn and cotton candy, glitter tattoos, chalk art, cupcakes, and more.