by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On August 3, a group of concerned citizens gathered near the Public Library in downtown Kemptville to make space and protect trans kids and youth in Kemptville. The event, organized by Rainbow Union Dundas & Grenville, and Kemptville Pride, was a response to an attack on a transgender youth in downtown Kemptville on July 29.
The details about this attack remain vague as police conduct their investigation, but it is confirmed that the attack was both physical and verbal, and that the minor who was attacked is continuing to suffer from physical injury.
Holly Brown, founder of Rainbow Union Dundas & Grenville and Kemptville Pride, stated that the attack follows a recent and clear uptick in reports of slurs and verbal harassment in the same area. This trend demonstrates a clear need for action. Holly explained the event as a way of “holding space for those who couldn’t exist safely in this location. Hate crimes are on the increase. After periods of great progress are usually periods of backlash. It is real, and can feel scary and uncertain, but it is expected. So much has been done to celebrate diversity in our community in recent years. So here we are. The honeymoon is over, and we are all met with backlash.”
Peaceful protests such as this one produce and hold social space, in which LGBTQ2S+ people are normalized as members of the community who are loved, valued, and respected. They also send the message that the community does not tolerate acts of violence. These social messages are crucial. However, they are not powerful enough on their own.
Holly says that the LGBTQ2S+ community is “ counting especially on those in positions of power to avoid any further division within our own town. We want policy. Not paint. We want changes that will outlive this council.”
Councillor John Barclay was an enthusiastic participant in the event and explained that his other Council colleagues would likely have been in attendance if it were not summer holidays. Though our current council has indeed been proactive in making North Grenville more inclusive of all residents, there is a fear that the backlash to come may include political changes. Holly called on Council to “start incorporating questions about how our decisions impact the most marginalized community members.”
Devon Warren, President of Pride festivities for Kemptville Pride, announced that Kemptville Pride is launching a Safe Place program, focusing on the old town Kemptville area of Prescott Street. The Safe Place program “allows residents, businesses, and organizations to assist victims of hate-motivated crimes and incidents”, in part by identifying “secure locations for victims to report a crime and to get the assistance they need, with compassion and with dignity.” As Devon stated, “this is a hate-motivated crime in your community. And it should piss you off.” The time for both individual and institutional change is now. And yet, within the struggle for justice, Holly stated: “the one thing I know for sure is that love always needs to be louder.”