The theft of several Pride flags from homes and hydro poles in Norwich in Oxford County is on the agenda of a Business Improvement Area meeting on Tuesday, where it’s expected some may show up to oppose having the flags replaced.
On Wednesday, the Ontario Provincial Police announced charges of theft under $5,000 against Jacob Dey, 47, of Tillsonburg.
Police say between May 20 and 24, multiple Pride flags were stolen or vandalized on Stover Street. A 16-year-old from Norwich Township, who cannot be named, has also been charged with two counts of theft under $5,000.
On May 21, OPP released images from security camera footage that show a white GMC Sierra pick-up truck, a red tractor and three male suspects dressed in orange safety gear in connection with the investigation.
Police say they are continuing to investigate, but Jeff Ducharme said a Pride flag was stolen from the front porch of his house in Norwich. Ducharme shared an image captured by his home security camera, which appears to show a young man pulling down the flag.
“It happens every year, and it happens all over town,” Ducharme told CBC News. “They’re either stolen or defaced. This isn’t the first time, and it isn’t isolated. It’s not just petty vandalism. It’s being seen for what it is, and that’s an intimidation tactic.”
Ducharme installed the security camera in response to Pride flags being stolen from his property in previous years.
“It’s not about the theft of a $5 flag, it’s about the message behind it,” he said. “There were feelings of intimidation and fear and nobody should be made to feel like that because another group disagrees with them.”
The Norwich BIA posted a message on Facebook expressing disappointment that the flags were removed.
“We have seen that the majority of Norwich residents are supportive of the flags and our efforts and commitment to showcasing Norwich’s business community,” the statement said. “We have received only a few negative messages, and very few of these from residents who actually live in our community.”
The statement also said they’d received many donations toward replacing the flags removed from Stover Street.
“A community that is not supportive of all its members is not perceived as safe for everyone,” it said.
Tami Murray of Oxford County Pride said the community is overwhelmingly supportive of flying the Pride flag.
“The larger we grow, the smaller they are,” she said. “They are a small pocket of people.”
At Tuesday’s BIA meeting, it’s expected a cheque for $900 in donations will be presented from Pride Oxford to go toward the replacement of the flags.
Dey refused to comment on the charges against him when contacted by CBC News.
“There will be a meeting on June 7 in Norwich to discuss it,” he said.