Every year Esquimalt resident Normagene Thompson joins hundreds of Indigenous people across North America in hanging red dresses.
They’re a symbol that has become well known in recent years, used to call attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls crisis.
This year though, Thompson was devastated to have vandals tear down her display not once, but twice. The first time, she hung three dresses in a small greenspace at the end of her townhouse strata. To make sure they withstood the elements, Thompson secured the dresses and hangers together with zip ties and then secured a sign, reading “No More Stolen Sisters #MMIW” to the hangers and the hangers to tree branches.
|(Courtesy of Normagene Thompson)
Four days later, the zip ties had been snipped, the dresses were gone and the sign lay torn on the ground. Thompson said she was hurt and disappointed, but refused to let the vandals win. She posted to social media to see if anyone would donate other red dresses and received two. Those she hung up on April 19. Two days later they too were gone.
The second time, Thompson contacted police and said she’s hopeful they’ll be able to secure surveillance footage from a nearby McDonald’s to reveal who the vandal is.
On the off chance the person who took the dresses was simply in need of clothes, Thompson is planning on putting out some freshly laundered items for them to take instead. But, the way the dresses were secured with zip ties, she said the person would have had to damage the dresses to take them. So, Thompson thinks it’s more likely an act of vandalism.
There have been several incidents across B.C. in recent weeks of red dresses being torn down, including along the highway near Campbell River and outside Nelson city hall. The acts of hate are awful, Thompson said, but she believes even when the dresses are torn down they are serving their purpose.
“The dresses are meant to create dialogue and raise awareness,” she said. “Whoever took them may have stolen the dresses, but they didn’t steal their meaning. They are working and they are making a difference.” A post Thompson made to an Esquimalt community group has more than 300 reactions and 100 comments.
Anyone interested in donating a red dress to Thompson can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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