Vandalism increasing at Guelph Black Heritage Society building, group says
Published Saturday, July 18, 2020 4:38PM EDT Last Updated Saturday, July 18, 2020 6:55PM EDT
GUELPH -- The Guelph Black Heritage Society has seen a growing amount of threats and vandalism in recent weeks, the organization said.
The group organized the Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Guelph last month and said incidents of vandalism have increased at Guelph's Heritage Hall ever since.
The president of the GBHS, Denise Francis, said she's angry, frustrated and afraid the vandalism will happen again. She added her main concern is the safety of the building and its members.
"It hasn't felt comforting," Francis said. "I've felt scared, I've felt frightened."
She said she's seen acts of vandalism like this since 2013. But, the frequency has increased since the Black Lives Matter rallies in June.
One incident left wires cut, meaning the property had no phone or internet service.
"A technician came and confirmed what I had expected," Francis said. "It had been deliberately tampered with."
She said racism is a local issue in Guelph.
"Just by the activities over this past month, it does exist," Francis said.
She added there's been an increase in threats of violence against GBHS members both online and in-person.
"A couple members who are senior citizens were doing some yard work when they were threatened," Francis said.
Francis said the building has motion sensors, but there weren't any security cameras when the wires were damaged. Now, she's working on upgrading the building's security system. She also said she's notified local police.
"They are following up with both the individuals who were affected and the person who has made the alleged threats," she said.
Residents on Essex Street said they're considering making a neighbourhood watch group to keep an eye on the property.
"It might help us in terms of conquering some of the racism the Black Heritage Society is experiencing," resident Judith Canham said.
Some want to help whatever way they can.
"Involve all of us, it might work out," resident Marie-Claire Recurt said. "I think most people would be interested in having that."
"Just for the safety of the neighbourhood and because I'm totally against a thing like that happening, it's just wrong," another resident, Sarah Dewbury, said.
Francis said she's grateful for the community's support in a difficult time.
"[It] makes us want to work even harder on initiatives, our education campaign and to try to combat racism in our community," she said.
CTV News Kitchener reached out to the Guelph Police Service but had not heard back as of 4:30 p.m. Saturday.