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Junction resident challenges Xtra box vandals

"They're all just cowardly bullies," says area man

A CHALLENGE. Steve Maclean taped this poster to Xtra's box at Keele Station.

Longtime Junction-area resident Steve Maclean has issued a challenge to homophobic vandals who’ve been tagging an Xtra newspaper box at the TTC’s Keele Station.

“Got a problem with gays and lesbians? Give me a call 416-604-7641. I’ll meet you in person,” reads a poster he taped to the side of the box.

“It was years ago that I started noticing the vandalism,” says Maclean. “The inevitable ‘fag’ spray painted on it, the entire pile of newspapers being missing the day after they were delivered. Some cowards actually took the time to pour glue inside it.”

Maclean, a 48-year-old shipping receiver, says he didn’t want to be a victim of “homophobic cowards.”

“It doesn’t happen because we’re gay but because we’re easy targets. That’s the essence of bashing itself, because they assume there’s going to be no retaliation,” he says. “That’s why I did it, to send the message that there will be retaliation.”

Maclean says he taped a hand-made poster to the box about a year ago and noticed that the vandalism immediately stopped. When the sign eventually became weathered and came off, the tagging started again, so he made a new sign and pasted it on with warehouse tape. The vandalism stopped again as soon as the new sign went up.

“I have not received one single phone call,” Maclean says. “See? Cowards.”

Brandon Sawh, Xtra’s community relations manager, says homophobic vandalism is not uncommon on the 87 boxes Xtra maintains around Toronto.

“This one has been hit a few times,” says Sawh. “If it’s reported to us, we have a distributor go and either replace the box for us, or we have a graffiti removal company clean it for us. The High Park Station box has the word ‘fag’ all over it. We will at some point be getting them all replaced.”

Sawh says he has no plans to remove Maclean’s handwritten poster from the Keele Station box.

“Who doesn’t love a little citizen action?” says Sawh.

For his part, Maclean insists he isn’t trying to be a hero but hopes to inspire gays to stand up for themselves and each other.

“Don’t give them confirmation that we’re all going to be easy targets. That just empowers them. They’re all just cowardly bullies. A lot of them will laugh with disbelief and skepticism. I say, ‘Back it up.’”

Xtra recently reported that the TTC plans to remove all newspaper boxes from its system, claiming that too many boxes are poorly maintained. It recently removed Xtra’s box from Wellesley Station. Read the full account here.