Vandalism of the flag turns Virgil woman into advocate

Vandalism of the flag turns Virgil woman into advocate

Sheri Durksen says she won’t be silenced.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident is sharing a message of solidarity, love and acceptance after vandals repeatedly damaged and removed Pride flags from the lawn of her Virgil home. over a period of a few days.

“You can’t just sit there and watch or pay lip service and do nothing,” said the 60-year-old grandmother and retired social worker who lives on the corner of Homestead Drive and Line 1.

“It’s up to those of us who aren’t directly involved (in the LGBTQ+ movement) to look at the other people in our lives or in our communities who are perpetuating this and say, ‘This is not OK.'”

The story begins with Durksen being awakened on the morning of July 1st by an unfamiliar knock on her door.

Liz Pilzecker, a professional pet sitter from Old Town, told Durksen that the night before, after feeding a client’s cat in Virgil, she drove by her house and noticed that someone had damaged the small Pride flag on her front yard and thrown it in the middle of the street.

Pilzecker picked up the flag and tried to return it, but since Dursken and her husband were not there that evening, no one answered the door.

While explaining this to Durksen the next day, Pilzecker pulled out a new Pride flag that she had personally ordered from Amazon and offered it as a replacement for the destroyed flag.

That was so nice and friendly, said Durksen, because she hadn’t even noticed the absence.

When she examined the damaged flag, it appeared to her as if someone had placed it on the sidewalk and repeatedly ridden over it with the tires of a bicycle.

“That kind of matches what a neighbor told me, that there were a bunch of teenagers hanging out on the corner (of her street and Line 1),” she said.

Mushroomswho moved to NOTL from the GTA eight years ago, said her motive for informing Durksen about the vandalized flag and replacing it was because she didn’t want the home’s residents to think Niagara-on-the-Lake was a hateful place.

“I wanted to show them that there is love in this city,” she said.

“I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand it,” she added.

“It was never a problem for me that a person’s orientation would provoke so much hatred. I can’t understand it. I wasn’t raised that way.”

Durksen hung the new flag on the original flag stand and placed it back in the small flower bed at the end of her driveway, hoping that was the end of the story.

It took a few days.

On the evening of July 5, vandals returned and removed the new flag and its stand.

A neighbor then pointed to the stand near the sidewalk across the street, but the flag that Pilzecker had replaced was gone.

Angry and determined not to have her beliefs and support for the LGBTQ+ community censored, Durksen persisted.

“When the flag was destroyed a few days ago, I thought to myself, ‘Well, if people have a problem with a little Pride flag, I guess I just have to get them more attention.'”

The second incident left her in a state of complete Pride exposure.

Durksen fired up her computer and began ordering several small Pride flags and a large flag for her porch, decorating the front of her house in the bright colors of the rainbow.

But her efforts would not end here, she said.

“I still have some flags with stands from Amazon and some solar spotlights,” she said.

She will put together several small flags and light them up “so people can see them at any time, day or night.”

“I hope this will make it harder for people to destroy or steal them. And it will also make them more visible 24/7, which seems to be exactly what we need.”

Dursken said she has seen firsthand how hatred and intolerance can hurt those they are directed against.

She knows people who have suffered in silence, afraid to talk about it, and have therefore had to endure incredible grief and feelings of isolation.

“I know some older family members whose whole lives, after they were over 40, had children and were married, were destroyed because they were never allowed to be who they were in their youth,” Durksen said.

“We have given the gay community the responsibility to stand up for themselves, to fight all these prejudices and to work to create laws so that they can experience equality in our society.”

“I don’t think that’s fair.”

Yes, she added, people have to fight for themselves.

“But we must stand up for the people around them who are not directly affected by these inequalities and fight on their behalf – together with them.”

She did not report the incident to the police, but hopes that speaking about it will make a difference.

This was the first year that Durksen decided to show her support for the gay community so vocally and visibly by coordinating her efforts with Pride Month, which occurs each June.

But it won’t be her last, and she probably won’t limit her efforts to Pride Month.

She’s not the kind of person who puts up signs of any kind, including political ones, on her lawn, “but this year I thought it was time.”

“I hear people talking, even if it’s just anecdotal things, and I feel like there’s a backlash,” she added, recalling the spate of vandalism incidents against the Pride zebra crossing in the old town last summer.

“I just feel like we’re going in the wrong direction. I think people need to stand up and get involved.”