When business owner Amanda Stewart arrived to work on the morning of Tuesday, Jul. 9, 2019, what greeted her at her storefront was anything but welcoming.
There, on the windows of her Princess Street business, Amanda’s House of Elegance, was graffiti, marking up the signage Stewart had put up in honour of Pride Month. The decals placed on Stewarts home décor business had originally read ‘love is love,’ and ‘proud living.’ The graffiti had altered that message, crossing out ‘love’ and replacing it with ‘God’ to read ‘God is love,’ and adding ‘God hates the proud’ to the bottom of the message.
For Stewart, who said she put the messaging up to “support our LGBT community and want them to know they are always welcome here – Always,” discovering the vandalism did not settle well. Stewart described going through a variety of emotions upon seeing the hateful act.
“At first I was furious, so angry that I was shaky. Then I was so overwhelmed with heartbreak for my friends in the LGBT community that it brought tears to my eyes. These are challenges they face. How heartbreaking is that?” Stewart expressed.
Thankfully, what happened next helped instill a sense of camaraderie and community in the business owner, who had taken to social media and posted the above photos of the graffiti decrying the act of vandalism.
“So your ‘God’ told you to vandalize stores? My God doesn’t. My God loves all his children. You should be so ashamed,” Stewart wrote in a Facebook post. “I think we will just leave our #proudliving and #loveislove signage up a little longer.”
Stewart tagged a variety of other downtown businesses in the post, asking if any other businesses had experienced similar acts of vandalism. Many of those business owners shared the post and messages of support, not only for Stewart and her business, but for the entirely LGBTQ+ community.
“Personally, I have had an outpour of support from everyone including heterosexuals, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. It’s a beautiful thing, seeing the community come together,” Stewart said, noting that the support and kind words have made her “pretty emotional.”
“Anyone who knows me would guess I would cry with every kind message I read,” she said with a laugh.
Stewart reported the act of vandalism to Kingston Police, who are currently looking into the matter. The graffiti was done sometime between when she left the store on Monday evening and when she arrived for work at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
While the incident has shaken Stewart some, she said she hopes that what people will take away from it is how quickly both the local business community and the general community have voiced their support for her business, and, more importantly, for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.
“I had a baby girl seven months ago and I want her to grow up knowing her Dad and I love and support her no matter who she loves. I want her to feel accepted by her peers and safe in our community,” Stewart said.
“And I want everyone in the LGBT community know that my daughter, Aurora, and I love and support you all,” she continued. “You are safe in my store.”
Kingstonist will provides updates on this police case if and when information becomes available.
Update (Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2019): Kingston Police are currently investigating this case of vandalism and have determined that the act occurred sometime between 5 p.m. on Monday, Jul. 8 and 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jul. 9, 2019.
“An unknown suspect changed the wording on a sticker on the front window of the store and also added an additional comment to another sticker. Both acts of mischief were done with a blue coloured marker and both had religious connotations,” said Const. Ashley Gutheinz, media relations officer for Kingston Police.
Gutheinz said that no neighbouring businesses reported any similar acts of vandalism, and that the culprit was not caught on any security cameras. Anyone with information is asked to contact Kingston Police (613-549-4660 ext. 0) and reference incident #19-24895.