Eastport officials are trying to find out who poured white paint on two adjacent crosswalks that had been painted last month with rainbow colors to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month.
The damage has since been repaired and the City Council has endorsed a plan to paint two more downtown crosswalks — one to show support for Blue Lives Matter, and another to show support for the fire department.
David Oja, the city councilor who had proposed painting two crosswalks to celebrate Pride month in June, said he is trying to raise $1,000 as a reward for anyone who has information that leads police to whoever vandalized the Pride crosswalks, located at the intersection of Washington and Water streets.
A security camera at City Hall, which overlooks the intersection, recorded someone pouring white paint onto the colored sidewalks on the night of July 13, Oja said. The resolution of the camera is not good enough to identify the person in the dim light, he said, but it could help corroborate other information police might receive.
“Somebody knows something,” Oja said.
Oja, who is openly gay and moved to Eastport six years ago from Provincetown, Massachusetts, said he proposed in early June that the crosswalks be painted in rainbow colors to celebrate Pride.
“To me, the rainbow colors also represent more than Pride month,” Oja said Wednesday. “Love, kindness, happiness, acceptance, peace, hope, promise of better times to come, dreams, good luck and new beginnings. That’s another reason why I wanted to do the rainbow crosswalk in the place I love and call home. Love is a beautiful thing.”
The council voted 4-1 on June 9 in favor of Oja’s proposal, according to William Boone, chairman of the city council, who supported the proposal. Boone said it took a couple of weeks to get everything in order, including approval from the Maine Department of Transportation, but that the crosswalks were painted near the end of the month.
The council met again July 14, the day after the crosswalks were defaced, and voted to “not condone” the vandalism and to have the damage fixed, Boone said. At the same meeting, the council voted 5-0 to approve another request to paint a crosswalk on Water Street in blue and black, in support of Blue Lives Matter, and an adjacent one on Boynton Street with red to show support for the fire department.
Oja initially felt “a little scared” by the vandalism, he said. It was the first time since he moved to Eastport when someone did something to make him feel unwelcome or intimidated.
“I’m a gay man and, for me to see something like that, I took it very personally,” Oja said.
He moved to Eastport because he wanted to live in a small town away from crowds and congestion, he said.
Oja said that a company in neighboring Perry, JP Painting, contacted him the day after the vandalism occurred and offered to repaint the Pride crosswalks at no charge. The company repainted the rainbow colors on July 15, and Oja gave them a gift basket of packaged fine foods from his retail store, The Bazaar, and a “huge thank you card signed by lots of lovely, beautiful people.”
Despite the vandalism, Oja said, he still is “very happy” to live in Eastport and continues to feel safe living in the small island city, which overlooks the Canadian border. He said he is not going to give up on Eastport.
“I need to keep going and I need to keep fighting for what is right,” Oja said. “I know it’s hard, but we need to love each other, no matter what.”