Anti-LGBTQ graffiti inspired these Londoners to fight chalk with chalk

Members of London’s LGBTQ community have started an initiative to fight back against anti-LGBTQ graffiti that’s appeared on multiple city properties in recent months.

They’re encouraging people to fill sidewalks with tolerant, positive messages, written in chalk, as part of a new movement they call Chalk the Walk.

“We’re hoping to enter this summer, and Pride month, with a renewed sense of community. To find a way to take back these negative actions and turn them into supportive ones,” said Perri Prince, a transgender Londoner.

In recent months, Prince and others have reported a rash of anti-LGBTQ messages written on bridges, sidewalks, and other city property in chalk. The London Public Library reported hateful messages appearing outside two of its branches in March.

Chalk art like this is what Prince and Brocksom encourage Londoners to produce.
Chalk art like this is what Prince and Brocksom encourage Londoners to produce. (Perri Prince)

London police said on Tuesday that investigations into the graffiti are ongoing.

The London Police Service also published a report in the same week showing the LGBTQ community is the primary target for hate crimes in the city, especially during Pride month, accounting for more than a quarter of all reported hate crimes in the city in 2023. 

Prince said they witnessed an individual writing anti-LGBTQ messages on Dundas Street in mid-April, an act that left them feeling hurt.

“I was watching someone draw on the sidewalk, thinking it would probably be a joke or a piece of art, and it turned out be an attempt to attack who I am as a human being.”

Others agree that seeing negative graffiti, despite it washing away with the rain, is difficult. It’s one of the reasons Stevie Brocksom, an LGBTQ activist and parent, is happy to take part in Chalk the Walk. 

Perri Prince said they've seen hateful chalk messages being written firsthand. It's what inspired them to start the Chalk the Walk movement.
Perri Prince said they’ve seen hateful chalk messages being written firsthand. It’s what inspired them to start the Chalk the Walk movement. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

“We chalked the entire corner of Victoria Park with positive messages,” Brocksom said, recalling the first time chalk was used at a vigil in London in March when people gathered to show support for a non-binary person stabbed in the United States. 

“Since then, I’ve taken my chalk pretty much everywhere I go.”

Brocksom is inviting others to create positive messages with chalk to mark the Rainbow Week of Action, including at a rally planned for Friday at London’s city hall.

“Yes, we’re there in defiance and in resistance to all the hate sweeping across Canada,” Brocksom said. “But we’re also there to celebrate each other. To remind each other that love is going to win.”

Both Prince and Brocksom say they hope their chalk movement will continue on into the summer.

“I would just really encourage people to keep some chalk in their back pocket or in their car,” said Brocksom. “Any time they see any of that hateful messaging, either wash it away or draw something new.”

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