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'Get the help you need': Muralist's message to Vernon vandal

This mural, located on the side of the AJ's Pets and Things on 31 Avenue, was recently defaced.
Image Credit: Sheldon Louis
June 05, 2017 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - A Vernon mural honouring indigenous people has been defaced with a swastika for a second time.

The mural, located on the AJ’s Pets and Things Building on 31Avenue, depicts the faces of Okanagan Indian Band, or Syilx, members and was a collaboration between artists Michelle Loughery and Sheldon Louis more than 15 years ago.

This past week, Louis, who now sits on the Okanagan Indian Band council, was disappointed to find the mural vandalized.

“It’s not the first time that specific mural, and that specific character, has been vandalized with the swastika and Hitler moustache,” Louis says, noting the mural was defaced about ten years ago with the same symbols. “Even though I know it’s not reflective of the Vernon community, it’s still disheartening to see those feelings still exist toward our people.”

The vandalism will be removed in short order, but Louis — whose great grandfather Pierre Louis is depicted in the mural — says it’s a message that there is still work to do within the community.

“On a certain level, it can be viewed as a hate crime,” Louis says. “I think it’s based on lack of education and ignorance of an individual, or individuals.”

He believes more educational opportunities are needed to bridge the Okanagan Indian Band and Vernon communities.

The common tag 'Cody Balls' was left on the mural.
The common tag 'Cody Balls' was left on the mural.
Image Credit: Sheldon Louis

“It would be a good step to dispel some of these thoughts that some of the community has toward our people,” he says.

The recent vandalism includes the tag ‘Cody Balls’ which, according to Rachael Zubick from the Vernon Community Policing office, is a fairly active tag.

“Any time the weather gets more pleasant, we see a sudden proliferation of tagging. Cody Balls is fairly prolific,” Zubick says.

Yet, she says it’s rare for the murals themselves to be targeted.

“When they hit the murals it’s just wanton, absolute vandalism,” she says.

She says culprits have been caught in the past and charges of mischief are possible. She encourages affected property owners to take pictures before removing the graffiti and/or tags so that information can be collected for prosecution and restitution purposes.

The recent mural vandalism has been reported to the RCMP and Vernon bylaw, Zubick says.

For muralist Michelle Loughery, the vandalism is a call for help.

“It’s weird to say, but I think this is an opportunity for conversation,” she says.

Loughery points specifically to the tear that was drawn onto one of the character’s cheeks.

“If that person feels that way, please reach out and maybe get the help you need,” she says.

A tear was drawn onto this character's cheek.
A tear was drawn onto this character's cheek.
Image Credit: Sheldon Louis

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
InfoTel News Ltd

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