At least 13 'horrifying' vandalism incidents in Ontario's Niagara region under police investigation

·3 min read
Michael Andrade, 57, owner of Caribbean Eatery in St. Catharines, Ont., on Sunday saw a racist word spray painted on a car outside his restaurant, among a string of vandalism incidents in the area. This photo shows Andrade using a phone to show the two suspects in security footage from a nearby corner store. (Jessica Maxwell/CBC - image credit)
Michael Andrade, 57, owner of Caribbean Eatery in St. Catharines, Ont., on Sunday saw a racist word spray painted on a car outside his restaurant, among a string of vandalism incidents in the area. This photo shows Andrade using a phone to show the two suspects in security footage from a nearby corner store. (Jessica Maxwell/CBC - image credit)

Michael Andrade was trying to get ready for church when he came face to face with racism.

The 57-year-old was inside his restaurant, Caribbean Eatery, not far from downtown St. Catharines.

"I got here Sunday, warming up some patties for the church … I looked in the back there and I saw this car with n----r written on it and I'm like, 'What's going on here?'" he told CBC Hamilton in an interview.

"I never experienced that. I've been here since 1986 … it took a little toll on me."

The vandalism he saw in the parking lot outside his restaurant is part of a string of racist and homophobic graffiti in the area that's being investigated by Niagara police.

The police were initially investigating vandalism at Harriet Tubman Public School just five minutes away, but have since found 13 incidents of hateful graffiti, including on:

  • Six vehicles.

  • Three homes.

  • A business.

  • Two school buses.

The vandals struck Saturday night around 10 p.m. ET, according to police and surveillance footage Andrade captured.

The cost of the damage is over $5,000, police say.

The first suspect is described as a man with a medium build wearing light-coloured pants, a light-coloured sweater, a baseball hat and black Nike shoes. Police also say he used his left hand.

The second suspect is described as a thin man wearing a striped hooded sweater, pants, light-coloured shoes and a flat brimmed baseball hat.

Jessica Maxwell/CBC
Jessica Maxwell/CBC

Officers say the suspects likely walked on foot and were on George, Catherine, Albert, Henry and Louisa streets.

Police are asking for any video footage that could help identify the vandals.

Community condemns hateful vandalism

Saleh Waziruddin, a member of Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association's executive committee, lives near the area and said he's concerned about the "brazen" nature of the vandalism.

"It's horrifying … they're just walking around without any worry of being caught or anything like that. It needs to be shut down," he said.

"Moments away from where I'm sleeping … this kind of violence is going on. It makes you feel very unsafe."

Andrade said the racist graffiti hits even closer to home because his granddaughter is a student at Harriet Tubman Public School, and the mass shooting at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., where 10 Black people were killed, was so recent.

CBC
CBC

"If these guys can ... take their time to do all this, what's next … it makes you think twice," Andrade said.

"We send men to the moon, we do all these things and still we can't get along … I don't understand why people can't see past colour."

Mayor Walter Sendzik said in a public statement that hate has no place in the city.

"The words used are charged with white supremacy thinking — the actions point to a poisonous way of thinking. When these despicable acts take place, we need to call it out forcefully and show support to those impacted by the hate-fuelled vandalism," he wrote.

Waziruddin said he has a message for the vandals.

"They better stop because people aren't going to take it and they better turn themselves in. Somebody knows who they are."

He also has a message for the community.

"We can't rest easy. We can't think this is not going to get worse."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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