Shops along the Pembina Highway hit by swastikas and other graffiti overnight
Paul Clerkin was one of more than a dozen business owners who showed up to a nasty surprise at work Wednesday morning after several stores along the Pembina Freeway were covered in hand-painted lettering. bomb and symbols comprising several swastikas.
Clerkin, co-owner of Stone Angel Brewing Company near Bishop Grandin Boulevard, spent part of his morning cleaning graffiti from the windows of his business and from the cafe in neighboring Tehran.
The two also had swastikas sprayed on their front sidewalks – a symbol, according to Clerkin, would have only been left there by “scumbags.”
“I don’t have time for this stuff,” Clerkin said.
“Chances are, these are just teenagers going through bloody growing pains and thinking they’re tough, fat, and provocative. And in reality, they’re just little fanatics with small minds. “
He said the vandalism appeared to have happened overnight, as he left the brewery around 10 p.m. Tuesday and one of his business partners found the graffiti around 7 a.m. Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said police were investigating the incidents.
While several stores in the nine-unit mall have been vandalized, only three have been affected by swastikas, Clerkin said.
Those stores were his brewery, Tehran’s Cafe, and the nearby Gong Cha bubble tea shop, which had one of the hate symbols scrawled on its window. Clerkin said it made him fear the vandalism was fueled by racism or xenophobia.
“Why would you want to make bubble tea and then skip the dentist, the chiropractor[practor], the auto parts store, and then press the button [Tehran Cafe],” he said.
“It doesn’t make sense to me that you’re doing that. And then you’re in that corner and you’re doing ours just for fun.”
Just north of that mall, the VJoy Beverage and Dessert restaurant – another bubble tea shop – was also hit with anti-Semitic graffiti, with a swastika sprayed on the side of the building.
Tehran cafe owner Maryam Nadmeh said she was not convinced her store was the one targeted since so many people were affected, but she wants to know who labeled her business – and why.
“They have to take responsibility for that. Because… it’s not funny. It’s already tough for business. So it’s something on top of everything,” Nadmeh said.
“I cannot let my guard down”
The vandalism comes on the same day the federal government holds a national summit on anti-Semitism.
Adam Levy, spokesperson for the Winnipeg Jewish Federation, called the moment irony. He said the organization was “shocked and disappointed” to see the swastikas.
“It’s a symbol that evokes fear and it’s a universal symbol of hatred,” Levy said on the phone Wednesday afternoon.
“He has no place in Canadian society.
He said the incident also underscores the need to act against anti-Semitic and other hate speech.
“History has taught us that those who target Jews do not stop there, as evidenced by this incident in which several ethnic and religious establishments were targeted with swastikas,” Levy said.
That is why it is important for all Canadians to speak out against hate speech when they see it, he said.
“We cannot let our guard down. We must remain vigilant that this type of hate does not take hold in our community any more than it has already,” said Levy.
A multitude of stores, organizations stricken
The same red spray paint has been seen at a wide variety of businesses along a stretch of the Pembina Highway that is at least two miles in length.
This included another mall after McGillivray Boulevard, where a medical center, pharmacy, and pastry shop were covered in scribbles.
Further south, a Vietnamese game store and restaurant were also hit with spray paint, though no hate symbols or words were seen there on Wednesday morning either.
Nearby, a building housing Canrelocate Immigration Consulting had the words “no, you can’t” and “fk off” spray-painted on that company’s signs. The word “bad” was also written on the sidewalk outside the front door of the building.
Nearby, the Catholic center of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg was also covered in graffiti. Other businesses just south of there, including a fondue restaurant and a Thai restaurant, were also left with red scribbles on their windows.