A Paris crosswalk has been targeted for the second time in three days amidst a wave of vandalism attacks on pro-LGBTQ displays across the world.
Just days before the French capital celebrates its annual LGBTQ Pride event (“Marche des Fiertés”), a temporary crosswalk in Paris’ Marais district was vandalized on Thursday with the phrase “dictature LGBT” (“LGBT dictatorship”) spray painted across the blacktop. It was accompanied by a direct threat to Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has blasted the spate of homophobic displays.
“Hidalgo dégage,” the message read, translating to “Hidalgo get out.”
On Monday, a similar warning was discovered in the city’s famous gay neighborhood and shopping district. The words “LGBT Hors De France” (“LGBT Out of France”) were scrawled at the same location in white paint.
The messages reveal a reawakening of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in France two years year after protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against same-sex marriage, legalized in May 2013. Numbering an estimated 200,000 people, the marchers held signs like “All Together for the Family” and “A Father and a Mother—It’s Hereditary.”
Calling Paris a “city of refuge that supports the republican values of liberty, equality, and fraternity,” Hidalgo vowed in a series of tweets to keep the City of Love from being engulfed by another torrent of hate.
“In order to inscribe [those values] forever on these walls, the rainbow crosswalks created for Pride will be made permanent!” she pledged.
France’s largest city, though, is just one of many municipalities across the world that have struggled in the past year to shield their rainbow crosswalks paying tribute to the LGBTQ community from being vandalized by opponents of equality.
These include Nantes, France and Tucson, AZ, the former of which had its rainbow staircase targeted. In Atlanta, sections of the city’s Pride crosswalk mysteriously vanished earlier this year and had to be replaced in March. Restoring the intersection reportedly cost Georgia taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Canada, in particular, has witnessed an epidemic of anti-LGBTQ vandalism in several towns across the Great White North, and many of these incidents took place just days and even hours after the brightly colored intersections were installed. Those targeted include crosswalks in Courtenay, British Columbia; Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia; Lethbridge, Alberta; Surrey, British Columbia; and Waterloo, Ontario, four of which occured over the past month.
These public displays were tagged with white paint or desecrated with tire marks. In the case of Fort Langley, British Columbia, its Pride crosswalk was vandalized in September 2017 by an unknown vehicle before the paint had even dried. Just hours later, the other side of the crosswalk was marred with a second set of tire marks.
Many of the culprits behind these attacks remain unknown. But in a rare moment of contrition, the vandal responsible for defacing a rainbow crosswalk in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan came forward to apologize and promised to pay for the damage.
The 20-year-old perpetrator—whose name was not revealed to media—alleged that it was not intended to be a statement against the LGBTQ community.
Some cities have managed to repair the damage done to their Pride crosswalks, but others face challenges to restoring them. After Waterloo’s rainbow intersection was defaced in June with jet-black tire streaks, resident Peter Houston told local media that the city council informed him there was no budget to repair the sidewalk.
“It is hoped that it will fade over time,” Houston told the Waterloo Chronicle. “My reply was, the mark may fade but the statement won’t.”
LGBTQ leaders say these incidents are an unfortunate symbol of the challenges faced by sexual and gender minorities around the globe. A representative of the Southern Ontario city’s queer advocacy group, Cait Glasson, claimed that she’s “so unsurprised as to be almost anti-surprised.”
“This is the very reason we need these kinds of markers: both for the Pride it brings to our community, and to show our neighbours just the kind of thing we have to deal with on a regular basis,” Glasson told the Chronicle.
“We all expected the bigots to show themselves, and they have,” she added.
The recent wave of vandalism targeting Pride crosswalks coincides with similar incidents at LGBTQ community centers following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. Since November 2016, spaces for queer and transgender people have been graffitied or shot up in Arizona, California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.
In Washington, D.C., a staff member at the trans community center was physically assaulted by a male attacker in March 2017.