‘This should be an alarm bell for Petrolia’

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Politicians, inclusion advocates, ag society and the public condemns hate crime at Petrolia fair

Demi Krall says a PRIDE Flag wrapped in a noose found at the Petrolia Fair “doesn’t make you feel safe to be who you are.”

The past president of the Petrolia/Enniskillen Agricultural Society is gay. When she found out about the hate symbol hung on the Truckin Mamma’s On the Run food truck on the fairgrounds Sunday morning, she was “disgusted and heartbroken.”

Krall is just one of the people speaking out about the incident.

The owner of the food truck – Chris Tripp – arrived at the fairgrounds to find the noose tied to the propane tanks on the back of his truck around 7:30 Sunday morning.

Petrolia Mayor Brad Loosley and his wife, Wendy, were manning the gate that morning. “Chris came over and was very upset. I saw it. And you know what, it really is very hurtful and a disgrace to see something like that in our small town,” he tells The Independent.

His comments were echoed by Tripp’s friends and customers. “It’s unsettling to know that some unknown person is willing to pull such a violent stunt,” wrote Adam Kilner.

“Isn’t that so sad though, to think that people aren’t safe to be who they are?”

Demi Krall, past president of the Petrolia Enniskillen Agriculture Society

“It is incumbent upon each and everyone of us who lives in the area to stand up and speak against nonsense like this. There is no place for hate. Anyone who remains silent should be ashamed,” added Kent Bitson.

“Somebody out there knows the culprit… Please show yourself to be bigger than this nonsense and call him out,” wrote Judy Geraghty.

Lambton OPP were called in to investigate and on Twitter called the incident a hate crime. Officials have so far not responded to The Independent’s request for information about the investigation.

Krall – who works in security and is on the fair board – says the fair typically doesn’t have security on site. People who work with the midway company usually camp on the grounds and that provides a deterrent. Without a midway, the board hired a security guard for the grounds.

“I want to make it clear that we do not blame security, we recognize that one person can’t see everything all the time. We need to keep our focus on finding who did it and preventing this from happening again,” says Krall.

Aside from her concerns about the fair’s security and reputation – this is personal for Krall. “I myself am a farmer and also a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I hope people realize that a few bad people don’t represent the whole community.”

Krall says it was disgusting and heartbreaking to see the vicious symbol in her hometown.

“There are so many people struggling with being who they are and to have to see this definitely doesn’t make you feel safe to be who you are,” she tells The Independent.

“I’ve spent my whole life in Petrolia and I love my town and community and we’ve come a long way – but we definitely still have a long way to go when it comes to acceptance.

“Fortunately I’ve mostly gotten love and support from my community but there has definitely been some situations that were not so supportive. High school was definitely not a safe space to be out as gay. So, I didn’t come out until much later in life and that was a struggle,” Krall said. 

“I don’t really share much about my personal life but I feel like someone needs to speak up so that people know stuff like this is still happening….I’m speaking up for the people who don’t feel safe enough to speak up.

“Isn’t that so sad though, to think that people aren’t safe to be who they are?”

“This should be an alarm bell for Petrolia.”

Crystal Fach, co-founder and executive director of Diversity Ed

Crystal Fach, the co-founder and executive director of Diversity Ed, agrees. The group has been active in Petrolia and is planning on setting up a safe space for students to hang out after school. Fach’s mind went immediately to them, and Tripp who she says is a great community advocate.

“I was heartbroken – I was scared for my 2SLGBTQAI+ folks in Petrolia and I was angry that this was still happening,” Fach tells The Independent. “This should be an alarm bell for Petrolia.”

And Face received calls of concern from people involved in a Drag Queen show scheduled for Petrolia this week. “They asked ‘Are we going to be safe in Petrolia?

“Hearing that made me sad…they don’t live in the county…that was a noose that was hung on the back of his truck, anybody in our community would be sacred thinking ‘are those people going to show up at our show, are they going to hurt us?’

“Our instant reaction is our safety,” says Fach, adding it is not unusual for people of the 2SLGBTQAI+ community to be “attacked on the street” for being who they are.

Both Krall and Fach downplayed the idea that there is less tolerance for the LGBTQ+ community in rural areas. “There are so many people who do support our community in (Lambton) county…but there is a few who go online or go in the middle of the night when they’re not visible to scare people,” says Fach. “

“That came from hate, it didn’t come from a farmer it didn’t come from a county person it came from a hateful person.

“It’s not just a county problem, it’s a national problem.”

Fach commended the OPP for taking the incident seriously. But she says the police investigation is only the start.

“There needs to be responsibility at all levels of government; what are you doing to enforce safety in this community. What are you doing to make sure people are educated,” Each says adding the public has to ask “how are we investing in equitable communities.”

Fach says that includes education and training in workplaces and safe spaces for young people to gather.

“That came from hate, it didn’t come from a farmer it didn’t come from a county person it came from a hateful person.”

Crystal Fach, co-founder, executive director of Diversity Ed

For his part, Loosley condemned the incident and reached out to the LGBTQ+ community.

“I certainly want to say you’re welcome in the Town of Petrolia no matter what. And that’s unfortunate that those things have happened, but I really feel that we’re talking a minority.

“I am glad that this is being investigated. ..I think people in the public need to be aware that this is unacceptable in the Town of Petrolia.”