WINDSOR, ONT -- What started as a protest againt hate in Amherstburg ended in compassion.

On Sunday, a group of close to 100 demonstrators gathered outside of a home at 106 Victoria Street South where a day earlier – the 76th anniversary of D-Day – a swastika was mowed into the backyard grass.

A chain link fence allowed the symbol, used by Nazi Germany as the regime carried out its atrocities throughout the Second World War, to be clearly displayed to the adjacent public street and encompassing school zone.

“There’s anger, there’s frustration, there’s disbelief and there’s hurt,” said Larry Hurst, a lifelong Amherstburg resident and protester.

The symbol was quickly mowed away following the backlash on Saturday.

To Hurst, who is Black, the act was an overt display of racism but, not the first he has seen growing up in the town despite its long history with the Underground Railroad.

As Black Lives Matter protests circle the globe in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, residents in the town and across Windsor-Essex were not about to let this transgression slide.

The backyard swastika could not be ignored.


“We have to do this in this little town,” says Hurst. “If we don’t do it we’re going to be ignored. The more you don’t speak up and stand up for something, the more they will do it.”

A demonstrator, only giving the name Pam to CTV News, was among the first to begin protesting outside of the home on Saturday.

“It’s hard for people to take the first step to fight against something,” says Pam, who is white. “Sometimes it just takes a couple people to take the first step to let everyone know that they have the ability to speak out against it.”

The scrawling of “Black Lives Matter” in sidewalk chalk outside the home was washed away quickly in Amherstburg by a crew directed to the job.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he received a call from Hurst concerning the chalk incident and heard his indignation.

“When I found out about it, I was equally as upset,” said DiCarlo. “What I can say at this time, the town responded to what was essentially a police matter at the time. We were not trying to disrespect anyone in removing anything like that and our position has always been that we support that movement and we always will.”

DiCarlo adds a statement from the Windsor Police Service concerning the matter is expected in the coming days.

Protesters chanted “no justice, no peace” and “Black lives matter” as they stood outside the home on Sunday while police controlled traffic and monitored the demonstration.

The protest began approximately at noon. It was roughly 30 minutes later when CTV News knocked on the door at 106 Victoria St. S.

A man, only giving the name Claudio, answered.

At first, he was dismissive of the protest outside his door.

“That symbol meant peace and prosperity. So, I used the wrong one. I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend anybody,” he said.

In much of the Western world, the swastika is tied to Adolf Hitler’s tyranny, genocide, and fascism – losing its religious affiliations throughout Asia.

“I made a mistake so, I got ride of it,” said Claudio, who is white. “In my eyes it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t thinking about what everybody else is thinking.”

What ensued were multiple conversations.

First, with Hurst, Pam, other demonstrators in the crowd, and then more apologies.

Protesters felt the show of humility was sincere enough to agree to leave. The crowd took a knee, fists raised high, before dispersing.

Hurst didn’t buy Claudio’s explanation of the backyard swastika but, felt the two sides had reached a compromise.

“It comes to his attention where now there’s no excuse,” said Hurst. “He knows how people feel. I said, ‘Listen to the people out there, listen to what they’re saying to you.’”

Before the door opened, Pam made her thoughts clear on Claudio’s action.

“He wanted to intimidate the people in his community, the people of colour in his community, the kids at the grade school down the street,” said Pam. “That’s where it absolutely has to be spoke against.”

There is now a new understanding following her conversation with Claudio.

Pam, along with a handful of other demonstrators, intend to return to the home to continue the conversation over a cup of coffee.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to isolate many in the region, she tells CTV News they intend to help Claudio – who is disabled – with some household chores and provide a friendly face in a time of crisis.