d'mila accessories russian z toronto

Pro-Russian signs and graffiti spotted in Toronto have people furious

Sheer horror appears daily in our news feeds out of Ukraine as Russia's (botched) military onslaught continues. It's a gruesome war that may be occurring thousands of kilometres away from Toronto, but its global effects are being felt at home in a city with large populations of both Ukrainian and Russian diaspora.

Things have been ugly on the home front since even before the invasion began in late February, when a pro-peace mural at a Future Bakery location was vandalized with anti-Ukrainian graffiti in what the owner described as a hate crime. Just days later, another anti-Ukrainian hate crime occurred in a shocking incident recorded just north of Toronto.

The war has only grown more polarizing during five weeks of fierce combat and mounting evidence of war crimes committed by occupying Russian troops and Orwellian explanations from the Kremlin, keeping tensions high in Toronto.

In a much-discussed recent case, a store at Richmond and Portland had its windows smashed and red paint thrown at its door.

The incident happened on Tuesday, less than a day after a report to Toronto Police that the store, D'Mila Accessories, was openly displaying and selling clothes with the Z symbol associated with the Russian invasion.

The store has since scrubbed its Instagram account clean, but not before taking a figurative hit to its reputation and a literal hit to its windows.

Though the Latin 'Z' character is not used in the Cyrillic script used in Russia, its use as an identifying feature crudely painted on invading Russian armour and equipment, as well as a symbol of support for the invasion, has co-opted a simple letter into what is now widely perceived as a symbol of oppression.

The letter 'V' has also taken on a similar role, used for the same purpose by specific prongs of the attack.

Some people are actually speaking out in support of the vandals and seem to have no love for the owners of the damaged storefront, with one even saying, "the store should be shut down for supporting fascism."

But unfortunately, this is not the only example of this suddenly hateful symbol (when used in the context of the Russian invasion) appearing on Toronto streets.

In another recent case, pro-Ukrainian signs posted to local hydro poles were vandalized with both symbols.

Captured in the city's west end, photos of the simple chalk graffiti have struck a nerve on social media, with one commenter saying they are "Shocked to see this in Canada," and another declaring the symbol tantamount to support for war crimes.

A Change.org petition has been set up seeking 7,500 signatures with a goal to have Russian army symbols, like "Z", the Ribbon of Saint George, and the flag of the Soviet Union recognized as symbols of hate in Canada. Over 5,000 have signed as of Wednesday morning.

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