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Vandals target Xtra newspaper boxes

Doors glued shut, filled with garbage, set on fire, stolen

Credit: Ted Hawkins

Homophobic vandals are targeting Xtra newspaper boxes in Toronto by gluing the doors shut, spray-painting “fag” across the front or setting the contents on fire.

In the first week of November, the Xtra box at Runnymede subway station was stuffed with garbage, the boxes at High Park station and Jane station went missing and, after one was replaced, the papers inside were set on fire. The box at High Park station was glued shut, the Keele station box was vandalized and the box at Jane station was sprayed with hate graffiti, says Xtra distributor Ted Hawkins.

“With the box at Runnymede, we’ve given up and taken the box away,” he says. “Many boxes have homophobic slurs spray-painted on them.”

“It seems to be a crazy homophobic group that has a vendetta for our magazines,” he adds.

Hawkins did not know if the repeated attacks are the work of the same vandal.

Over the years, about 10 newspaper boxes in Toronto have been hit, he says.

“One of their favourite things is gluing the box shut, setting it on fire and filling it up with garbage,” he says. “Sometimes it’s more minor, like turning the boxes upside down.”

The vandals appear to be using an “industrial strength” construction glue to seal the doors shut, he says.

Hawkins says the deliberate destruction of gay press newspaper boxes is not new. People have been scrawling hateful messages on Xtra and fab boxes for years.

“This has been going on since 1993 or 1994,” Hawkins says. “There seems to be some people out in that end of town who keep doing this.”

After one spree of attacks in Ottawa in 2005, the vandal was caught and charged. Xtra Ottawa newspaper boxes were repeatedly targeted with paint or had their doors screwed shut. While some had paint poured over them, others were defaced with swastikas, “HIV” or had their windows painted black. Adjacent newspaper boxes were untouched.

Thomas Strain was charged with four counts of mischief under $5,000 and one count of mischief over $5,000 in connection with the incidents. The judge acknowledged that the vandalism was a hate crime and sentenced Strain to three months of house arrest. During Strain’s spree, Xtra Ottawa spent more than $10,000 in box upkeep.

Craig Palmer, Xtra and fab distribution and community relations coordinator, says each box costs about $200, so constantly replacing them is costly and frustrating. There are about 100 newspaper boxes currently fanned out across Toronto.

Palmer hopes loyal Xtra and fab readers will keep their eyes open to help catch the vandals in the act.

Anyone with information should contact Xtra at comment@dailyxtra.com