Australian Gay Couple Confront, Stop Pride Crosswalk Vandal

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday November 2, 2019

A gay couple in Adelaide, a city in southern Australia, confronted and stopped a man who was in the act of vandalizing a pride-themed crosswalk with spray paint, reports Australian newspaper the Star-Observer.

In addition to the usual rainbow color motif, the crosswalk features significant dates in the long road toward full legal equality for LGBTQ people and their families. But the vandal had other ideas, targeting those dates for repetitions of the message "Jesus loves you."

It's a reassuring sentiment, but not one everyone appreciates seeing added in a defacing manner to public property.

A man called Tom, who was passing by the scene in a car with his boyfriend, happened to see the vandalism in progress. Tom told Australia's ABC News that he and his boyfriend stopped the car, after which Tom approached the vandal.

Tom told ABC that:

"He was writing 'Jesus Loves You' on the top of all the printed landmark dates along the walk... We pulled around and I got out, snatched his spray can and a bag of several more, took some photos of him — he calmly let me and then walked off — and I threw it in our car."

Added Tom:

"He didn't say a single thing to me the whole time.

Photos accompanying the story show Tom facing iff with the vandal, taking a cell phone video of him while the man simply gazes back at him.

To went on to recount:

"About 10 seconds later, some police drove past, I waved them down, and pointed him out to them."

The suspect was placed under arrest. He is a 28-year-old man from Cowandilla, news reports said. He was not further identified.

The city council made a statement through a spokesperson, who said that the graffiti would be removed.

"We're disappointed to see that someone has written across the Rainbow Walk, which was installed in 2016 to celebrate our city's diversity," the spokesperson said.

Media reports noted that in the United States a gang of bikers attacked a rainbow-themed crosswalk last summer, burning rubber on the painted colors. One biker managed to blow out a tire in the process, an AP report from the time noted.

The Trump administration has also come after rainbow-themed crosswalks that communities across America have placed on their own city streets, despite having no authority over those streets.

Last month, EDGE reported on how the Federal Highway Administration sent a letter to Ames, Iowa City Manager Steve Schainker, suggesting that colors other than white in a crosswalk could pose a safety hazard and pressing Shainker to eradicate the crosswalk color schemes. Downtown Ames features an intersection with several LGBTQ-themed crosswalks.

Included in the letter were ominous warnings that the city could open itself up to liability if there are any accidents in the intersection, and raising the specter that people from other cities could take a shine to the crosswalks and want some of their own.

The colorful crosswalks, which take the hues of the Pride flag, the transgender flag, and the gender non-binary flag, could lead to "confusion for motorists, pedestrians, and other jurisdictions who may see these markings and install similar crosswalk treatments in their cities," the letter intoned.

"Allowing a non-compliant pavement marking to remain in place presents a liability concern for the City of Ames in the event of a pedestrian/vehicle or vehicle/vehicle collision," the letter went on to add.

But city attorney Mark Lambert saw the issue differently. "Given the flexibility in crosswalk design allowed by the Iowa Code," Lambert wrote in an Aug. 6 missive in which he anticipated the government's attempted interference, "there are arguments that creative crosswalks actually enhance pedestrian safety."

The Ames city council deliberated on the letter from the feds and then decided to ignore it.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.