Businesses at a south Winnipeg strip mall were streaked with red spray paint overnight Wednesday, after vandals scrawled crude swastikas on windows and adjacent sidewalks.
Stone Angel Brewing Co. had scrubbed the paint from its windows by mid-afternoon, as did Unique Bunny, Gongcha, and Tehran Cafe, though some remained on the Iranian restaurant's sign on the east side of Pembina Highway.
Stone Angel co-owner Paul Clerkin lifted a foot mat outside its front door to reveal an anti-Semitic symbol — this one, drawn backwards.
"I don’t know why we got hit — everybody else who got hit seemed to be Asian or Middle Eastern businesses, largely," he said.
"I’m Irish, a white European middle-aged man, so I'm reasonably immune. Whereas you’re talking to somebody else and they came from a war zone and you’re painting swastikas and 'get out' things across the front of their building, that doesn’t make them feel very welcome, does it?"
Fiona Zhao said she felt her Unique Bunny gift shop, which sells Japanese and South Korean goods, and neighbouring bubble tea vendor Gongcha were tagged because of anti-Asian racism.
"Who spends so much effort to plan this thing? He must have so much anger and hate in his heart," Zhao said, adding she's aware of at least seven area businesses being tagged.
"As Asians, we are being targeted... It's a hate crime, it’s not a random joke."
At Tehran Cafe, a pair of elderly men ate while others waited for takeout. Cameron Regier was working at a construction site nearby and came to pick up lunch after hearing about the vandalism via social media.
"(It's) certainly not something I'd like to see in the city I live in, so I wanted to make sure these folks know there are caring people who support them," Regier said.
Winnipeg police are aware of the incidents and are investigating, Const. Dani McKinnon said, noting the service has specialized investigators that oversee potential hate-motivated graffiti.
Businesses and other structures along Pembina Highway were tagged with red paint as far down as Grant Avenue, the Free Press observed.
That many businesses means police will have footage from a large number of security cameras, Clerkin said.
"Winnipeg’s a pretty good community. I’ve lived here 17 years and it’s a great town. You end up with little toe rags like this making it crap for everybody else."
It's possible the incident was for shock value, rather than true hatred, Clerkin said.
"At the least it's petty vandalism; at the worst, it's out-there racism. It could just be petty vandals who use swastikas because they know it gets everybody riled up and they think it's hilarious — in which case they still need an education," he said.
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.