Nenshi says there’s ‘no place in this city’ for threats, racism over Black Lives Matter mural

Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks during the Calgary Rise Up launch announcement on Thursday, August 13, 2020.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi on Thursday condemned abuse levelled at community group Pink Flamingo over a series of planned murals to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement.

The group announced Wednesday that

the project would be delayed to 2021

after opposition to plans to paint the first mural at 7th Avenue and 1st Street S.E., over an existing painting called “Giving Wings to the Dream” by Doug Driediger. The owner of the building that displays the current 25-year-old mural had given permission for the project, and Pink Flamingo said they believed Driediger was also supportive.

But the volume of threats and racism Pink Flamingo has received this week prompted them to close their Facebook page to messages. They shared some of what’s been sent to them on their Instagram stories, including a person saying they’re “evil” and threatening that they “will be destroyed,” as well as someone else calling them “fascist (expletives).”

The first of four murals, which city council approved in June, will now be planned for a different location downtown.

“What is happening to the people at Pink Flamingo is disgusting, and it has no place in this city. It’s not right and it’s not fair,” Nenshi said.

He said he also had doubts about replacing an existing piece of art, and it’s valid to have that conversation.

But, he said, especially considering the decision has already been made to put the new mural somewhere else, the discussion has taken a disturbing turn.

“What I don’t appreciate is the people who have used this as an excuse to fight the issue of anti-racism. I don’t appreciate the people, the racists, who have used this as an excuse to push their own views,” Nenshi said.

“I couldn’t care less what you think about that mural. You have no right, no right whatsoever in this city, to engage in that kind of threatening behaviour. And if that’s how you feel, find another place to live.”

The Calgary Arts Development Authority, which is helping facilitate the mural project, also

issued a statement


“It is greatly disappointing and alarming that there are some who have also taken this opportunity to voice their views in a way that has resulted in great harm and threats of violence being directed to Pink Flamingo leadership,” the statement said.

Council approved $120,000 from the city’s public art reserve for the mural project shortly after unanimously passing a motion this summer to take steps to combat systemic racism in Calgary.

 Thousands of people gathered in Poppy Plaza to protest against racism and police brutality on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. The global protests which started from the U.S. were ignited after death of George Floyd, who was killed by the police in Minneapolis. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

They started that work after a series of massive protests drew thousands of people to march through Calgary streets, drawing attention to anti-Black racism and police brutality.

In July, council listened to three days of public testimony about the ways racism is deeply embedded in organizations, communities and daily life in Calgary. More than 100 people spoke, calling for concrete action to protect people in racialized communities who continue to be profiled, targeted and harmed in the city.

Council has promised that the city is

committed to meaningful action

and change as a result of what they heard.

Nenshi said when it comes to the mural conversation and people trying to defend the current piece of art, it’s time to “turn down the heat.”

“Let it go, because no matter how well-intentioned you are, no matter how much you want to explain yourself, so doing opens that window for those haters and we just don’t need that now,” he said.

“The mural’s not going on that wall. It’s going to go somewhere bigger and somewhere better — it’s going to be an extraordinary part of our community going forward. I commit to that.”

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