Thia James, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX
First posted: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 12:31 PM EDT | Updated: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 12:53 PM EDT
SASKATOON - Under a warm evening sun, volunteers gathered at the intersection of 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue with buckets of water and scrubbing sponges to scour away a pair of tire tracks left across one of the two rainbow crosswalks in downtown Saskatoon.
City of Saskatoon workers painted the crosswalks there and at Third Avenue and 23rd Street in celebration of Pride in Saskatoon, shortly after Divas Nightclub raised what it calls the biggest Pride flag in North America atop the Avenue Building downtown. The annual Pride festival kicks off on Friday.
Celebration turned to disappointment with the appearance of the black skid marks at the Fourth Avenue intersection on Monday. The father of a 20-year-old man who took responsibility for the act contacted Danny Papadatos, co-chair of the Saskatoon Pride Festival.
“It was a really emotional conversation,” Papadatos said.
“Obviously there’s hurt going on and … he’s sad and embarrassed, and guilty. The conversation started mostly around the courage it took to come forward. I mean, there was an opportunity, obviously, to let this go and kind of wait for this all to blow over. And instead he chose to come forth, and I admire that courage.”
Based on the conversation, Papadatos said he doesn’t believe the young man knew what the rainbow symbol meant, and that’s likely why he came forward — because he didn’t understand what his actions would mean to people.
As the volunteers prepared to start fixing the crosswalk, a man driving a white van through the intersection slowed to a stop, stuck his head out of the window and shouted, ending his tirade by calling the volunteers “queers.”
Other passersby stopped to crouch down side by side with the volunteers to clean the black streaks away. Volunteers and staff also re-painted the crosswalk.
“We are here because this is important to us and we are going to celebrate how we intended to,” Papadatos said. “No one is going to take this moment away from us and no one is going to take away 25 years of struggling — and the fight, and the name calling and the beatings, and no one is going to take that away from us either.”
Support from people in the LGBT community and their allies has been overwhelming, Papadatos said.
“What’s even more overwhelming to me is the message of hate that’s been spewed across social media. You can do better, Saskatoon.”
He ran to his rainbow-decalled Pride vehicle and cranked up the stereo, playing Sister Sledge’s “We are family.”
As he went to re-join the group of volunteers, he paused and pointed at them.
“This is Saskatoon to me.”
-With files from Jonathan Charlton
Tire marks damage the rainbow crosswalk, painted for Pride. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
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