The JK Rowling billboard was painted over within hours (Twitter/@christophelston)
A billboard in Vancouver that read ‘I love JK Rowling’ lasted less than 24 hours before it was defaced with paint by angry Canadians.
The billboard on Hastings Street, East Vancouver was paid for by Rowling fans Chris Elston and Amy Hamm in support of the Harry Potter author’s anti-trans views.
They proudly shared a photo of the billboard on social media on September 12 – but it was removed just a few hours later after drawing outrage from LGBT+ allies.
“It’s just one of those things where you see it and get that feeling in the pit of your stomach,” Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung told CTV News. “My first thought was ‘Oh no, really?’”
Kirby-Yung addressed the billboard operator Pattison Outdoors on Twitter, condemning “this clear, intentional messaging meant to stoke hate, exclusion and division”.
She called for “an outpouring of love [and] solidarity that drowns out the hate,” and Vancouverites were only too happy to help.
Within hours a tin of blue paint was splattered over the sign, and by the end of the day a cherry picker had arrived to cover over the message. It’s not clear whether the order came from city officials or Pattinson Outdoors.
On hearing that their sign had been removed, Elston and Hamm complained to Pattison Outdoors in an open letter shared online.
“We did this because we were inspired by Rowling standing up for the rights of women, girls and children,” they wrote, insisting that “Rowling is not transphobic, and neither are we.
“Like her, we are concerned about the impact of gender identity ideology on the rights on women and girls,” they continued. We ask that you stand with us, stand with women, and stand for free expression.”
We still ❤️ you JK Rowling. pic.twitter.com/Wypix0JWnn
— chris elston 🇨🇦 (@christophelston) September 12, 2020
Kirby-Yung believes Elston and Hamm were “well aware” of the limits of free speech and suggested that the billboard’s message was a form of carefully-coded transphobia.
“I think it’s intentionally intended to incite hate without officially contravening […] guidelines of hate speech. But the clear intent is to stoke division and be exclusive of people in our city.
“It’s clearly targeted, in my opinion, towards the trans community,” she said.