Fenelon Falls business targeted by “hate crime”
The staff of the Grr8 Finds Market in downtown Fenelon Falls was victimized yesterday in what the investigating OPP officer initially described as “a hate crime.”
The business, which has operated in Fenelon for more than a decade, takes great pride in the fact its staff are “loud and proud queers.” Until this incident the men and women that worked at Grr8 had only experienced love and support from the people of Kawartha Lakes.
That ended yesterday morning when a man entered the store “and tried to tell an entirely queer staff that they were sick and disgusting.”
That same individual also yelled “faggot” and “sin” at the top of his lungs at the assembled employees.
Staff at the Grr8 Finds Market describe the store as “a safe place, a sanctuary,” in a Facebook post.
“We celebrate uniqueness, individuality and make sure that our store is somewhere you can be your most honest out loud self.”
The incident escalated further when later in the afternoon two pick-up trucks with three different men arrived in Fenelon and parked directly across the street from the Grr8 “stalking the store,” according to the post.
The men made no attempt to do banking or shop in the other stores. Rather they appeared to have only one thing on their mind and that was intimidating the staff and customers of the store by their presence on the street outside.
When one of the employees left the store she was followed by one of the pickup trucks on a brief jaunt through the village. This happened on two occasions that afternoon. After the second trip where she was followed for a number of blocks the employee returned to the store where in the meantime police had been summoned.
By the time the police arrived the trucks had departed, but staff pictures of the vehicles and their license plates were going to loom large in the investigation.
“We didn’t expect this. Bigots still do exist,” employee Rylee Rae said.
When interviewed by The Advocate Rae added, “The investigating OPP officer was excellent. He called the incident a hate crime and was ready to escalate it with his sergeant even before he arrived. He was so sorry for what had happened to us and understood the fear this had created.”
With the photos taken by Grr8 employees the police have been able to identify the four men who are members of the same extended family from the Coboconk area.
“I identified the one man who had been in the store first from what looked like a mug shot picture,” Rae added.
“The outpouring of support from the Fenelon Falls community has been amazing,” Rae continued.
“The chair of the Fenelon Fall Chamber of Commerce has visited offering assistance to the store. People have been dropping off flowers and offering the staff public support. Others have said that if at any time the staff felt threatened again just to call and they would be there to walk them to their cars or assist with whatever is required.”
The Grr8 Facebook page states categorically, “We will not be silenced. We are proud. We remain loud and will get through this with love and kindness.”
On a more hopeful note, Rae wanted to remind Kawartha Lakes that the Grr8 was collecting donations for “Pride benches” to be installed along the lock waterfront in Fenelon Falls, similar to the bench recently installed in Victoria Park in Lindsay.