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Vandalism or Idle-Less Protest?

Sir John A. Macdonald statue, Kingston, Ontario“Murderer,” “Colonialist.” These are not the typical titles that I would use to describe one of this city’s most recognizable and celebrated citizens, Sir John A. Macdonald. The harsh designations were spray painted on Sir John A.’s statue at City Park, mere hours before the public was scheduled to converge at the location to commemorate his 198th birthday last Friday. While city crews diligently responded with pressure washers and brushes to clean up the graffiti, the incident left a definitive black eye on the festivities for Sir John A.   Even so, members of the Bicentennial Commission, the Mayor and a host of local supporters who were in attendance appeared to take the act of protest, or whatever you prefer to call it, all in stride.  When asked for his thoughts on the incident, Mayor Gerretsen put a positive spin things, stating:

I hope that everybody can appreciate the subtle irony that exists with what happened this morning or late last night, which is that, it is because of great Canadians such as Sir John A. that we Canadians have the ability to express our opinions the way that we do.

The defacement of Sir John A.'s statue was:

  • Vandalism (63%, 153 Votes)
  • Both vandalism and protest. (29%, 71 Votes)
  • Someone Else Entirely. (4%, 9 Votes)
  • Political Protest (3%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 241

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Additional disparaging statements including: “Sir John A. Killer,” “f*ck Canada,” and “this is stolen land,” were also unceremoniously spray painted on the monument.  Many were quick to interpret the latter statements as clear links to supporters of the Idle No More movement, however campaign representatives denied any involvement in the defacement of the statue honoring Sir John A.  Kingston Police went one step further in their response to the public, stating: “the defacement could be part of an effort to smear the aboriginal movement”, and that they are “cautious as to what the motive is at this point”.

The incident has resulted in heated discussions about the cowardly defacement of public property, the right to peaceful protest, Sir John A.’s stance towards the rights of aboriginal people, as well as whether or not the Limestone City is in fact “stolen land”.  How did you interpret this incident; as vandalism, protest or both? Drawing your own conclusions as to who is responsible, what impact do you think the accusations could have on local support for the Idle No More campaign?

Thanks and credit to Tim Forbes for today’s photo of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue in City Park, sans spray paint treatment.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

18 thoughts on “Vandalism or Idle-Less Protest?

  • January 14, 2013 at 9:49 am
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    Why focus your coverage of #IdleNoMore #ygk on spray paint & not 300+ peacefully protesting at #Queensu #tooeasy #predictable #cmon Watch a video of #J11 at Queen's/Kingston http://bit.ly/Y5q4uZ

    • January 14, 2013 at 10:19 am
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      I haven't really reported anything with respect to the local Idle No More movement because it's honestly been off my radar. I've seen a few photos/posts here and there on Facebook about demonstrations in Kingston, but save for what's going on nationally, little else concerning the local level. Given the conclusions people are drawing from last Friday's events, regardless of who was responsible, a discussion regarding whether or not the incident has hindered or helped the local movement remains a valid point of discussion.

      • January 14, 2013 at 10:45 am
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        Wow, *local* journalist uses the 'off my radar' excuse. Just wow. Respectfully, have you been under a rock? Or do you just depend on the Sun News Network for your information? C'mon. We deserve a more worthwhile discussion that 'is spray paint ok?'

        • January 14, 2013 at 10:57 am
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          In Harvey's defense, I've only seen anything about the protests on facebook and he doesn't spend much time there. If you send us press releases, we'd be happy to cover these events in our calendar.

          • January 14, 2013 at 11:06 am
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            Thank you, much appreciated.

            Thanks also for posting the video, but, seriously, Kingstonians deserve a more worthwhile discussion than ‘is spray paint ok?’

          • January 14, 2013 at 11:31 am
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            You want more conversation regarding Idle No More, why not start one here? We accept submissions from everyone and anyone so long as they pertain to Kingston.

            And to be fair, I don't think I asked whether "spray paint was okay". My comments aimed at stimulating conversation were slightly more relevant and penetrating that that. Perhaps you need to have another read.

          • January 14, 2013 at 11:45 am
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            Thanks for the invitation to submit something. I

            I stand by my criticism that there's a much more worthwhile discussion to be had than what this poll focuses on. It follows the Sun News Network/Whig in a lowest-common-denominator-titillation-journalism.

            Perhaps add another option to answer: Focusing on spray paint obscures a wider, more useful discussion

          • January 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm
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            Also, for the record, both the Whig and CKWS covered Idle No More Kingston prior to January 11 and the spray paint incident. Hard to feel sympathetic to the 'off the radar' excuse.

          • January 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm
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            Don't regularly watch CKWS, and rarely read the Whig. Those who comment over at The Whig kind of turned me off trying to have a discussion with people about what's going on in Kingston.

          • January 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm
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            Perhaps, instead of continuously pointing out of what you see as flaws, we could use this space to actually have the conversation you’re asking for.

          • January 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm
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            I think this vandalism would have been a non-story if it were not for the celebrations of Sir John A to happen at that site on the same day

          • January 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm
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            I think this vandalism of a statue commemorating Canada's first Prime Minister would be a story whether or not there were celebrations scheduled for the day. I don't think this is something that anyone would be complacent about, regardless of who did this or why.

  • January 14, 2013 at 10:06 am
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    I fail to see why you would even have the defacement of Sir John A's statue and the Idle No More campaign's name in the same article. I am confident that the two are not connected. I know that I personally am outraged that one of Kingston's most notable landmarks was defaced. And am also saddened to see the name of a grassroots peaceful movement associated with such an act. I must have missed the article on your site that covered the couple of hundred people at The gathering held at Queens University later that day.

    • January 14, 2013 at 10:33 am
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      Sadly your confidence regarding whether or not a connection exists is not shared by many, hence why Idle No More is listed in the article. Whether or not you agree with the reference, I’ve done my best not to slant the article one way or another. As stated, organizers have outright denied any involvement, and the Police have urged people not to jump to conclusions. That said, after publishing the article, I discovered that the incident is supported by few folks who commented on the act: here.

      To show we’re not trying to take the conversation regarding Idle No More in a negative direction, we’ve gone ahead and featured a video from the demonstration at Queen’s. It appears on every page, on the right hand side of your screen.

      • January 14, 2013 at 11:55 am
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        I appreciate that you have put the article up. It gives another point of view. I try to be level headed, and I dont have to agree with an article as long as both points of view are given I can be happy. and respect the people writing them. That's all I was asking for.

  • January 14, 2013 at 10:19 am
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    This isn't really the right question, is it? There is only one answer: of course it's a protest and of course it's also vandalism. The real question is whether the vandalism is worth it for the point that is being made. My view is that as 'vandalism' it's hardly as outrageous as the media are making out. The paint can be washed off, the situation of Canada's indigenous peoples is not so easy to remedy. It's actually rather telling that the local media seem to be more interested in the temporary defacement of an inanimate statue than the appalling and ongoing betrayal of First Nations, poverty, exploitation and theft of lands. If only people would get as worked up about the latter…

  • January 14, 2013 at 10:23 am
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    I would like to point out that the video from last Friday's demonstration is on the right hand side of this page and can also be found at the bottom of our homepage.

  • January 14, 2013 at 10:54 am
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    Seems it’s a surefire way for punks to get attention.

    Expect more; lots more. The cost is low, the risk is very low, and the subsequent tweeting, articles, and online-poll-taking are all off-the-charts.

    The best response to all vandalism is no story, just clean it up promptly. Next time.

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