Vancouver’s gay MLA for the West End says he won’t take down his office’s rainbow flag despite the man who allegedly entered his office and punched his employee in the face while uttering homophobic statements Feb 21.
“After expressing his hatred towards the rainbow flag which flies at the community centre across the street, and the rainbow flag in my office, he shouted homophobic slurs at my constituency assistant, punched a hole in my office door and then assaulted him,” Spencer Chandra Herbert alleges.
“He was screaming about ‘faggot flags,’” Chandra Herbert tells Xtra. “We called the police and he was arrested.”
“The safety of the people who work here has been violated,” he says. “We’ll keep standing up to the hate. We’re not backing down. We’re emboldened to keep working harder on this.”
Vancouver police say a 53-year-old intoxicated man was arrested and has been released without charges.
“When police arrived a few minutes later, they found the man standing on the sidewalk, down the street from the office. He was arrested without incident and taken to jail,” Sergeant Randy Fincham said in a statement. “Due the nature of the allegations, the incident is being investigated by the Vancouver Police Hate Crimes Unit.”
The man is due in court April 4.
Chandra Herbert says the man, whom he did not recognize but is a West End resident, has been issued a “no-go order” for the area around the constituency office.
“We are continuing to work with the police department to make sure charges proceed and hate like this is not allowed to go unchallenged,” he says.
Hateful emails or letters are not unusual at his office, but it’s the first time things have turned violent, he says.
“I believe that acts of hate and violence are serious matters that should be reported to the appropriate authorities. For this reason, criminal charges are being pursued. If such senseless acts of hate and violence can happen in an MLA’s office in Vancouver’s West End, they can happen anywhere.”
Chandra Herbert tells Xtra that the incident rattled his staff but that the assistant, who wishes to remain anonymous, is all right.
“My assistant is recovering from the incident, but we are both shaken and shocked that someone felt it acceptable to express their hateful views by assaulting a government worker and damaging government property,” Chandra Herbert says.
Though he has always felt safe in the West End, he says, he now feels uneasy. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
Staff at the community centre and library across the street from Chandra Herbert’s office say they still feel safe despite the incident but refused to comment further, referring all questions to their communications department.