Residents of a New Brunswick community are searching for answers after a historic Black Loyalist burial ground near St. John was vandalized over the weekend.
Ralph Thomas, the president of local organization PRUDE (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education), which promotes diversity in the area, spent most of Saturday morning cleaning up the Black Settlement Burial Ground after vandals shattered all five windows of a memorial building at the site, CBC News reported.
The cemetery, founded in 1831 for Black Loyalists and refugees who fled to the area during the War of 1812, is the final resting place for dozens of Black residents in the community. A small memorial building was added to the site in 1982, according to the news site.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” said Thomas, who was preparing the burial ground for winter when he discovered the damage. “Happened to look up and gee whiz, there was a broken window in the front entrance.”
The local man soon found that all five windows had been broken with stones tossed inside the building. He also discovered a monument that’d been missing for a month thrown in a nearby ditch, CBC News reported. Luckily, nothing inside the building was left damaged.
Despite the nature of the site, Thomas said he doesn’t believe the crime was racially-motivated. He said the area is well looked after by locals, a few of whom stopped by and were heartbroken over the damage.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that whoever did it doesn’t have anything better to do with their time,” said resident Robyn Scott, who lives next door to the cemetery. She said she doesn’t remember hearing anything out of the ordinary.
David Peters, a New Brunswick black historian who’s been heavily involved with the development of the burial site, told the news site he believes whoever is responsible doesn’t understand the historic significance of the area.
“We are hurt by it, yes,” Peters said. ” … That is Loyalist land, that is refugee land for the black folks and there’s other folks buried in that area as well. So, we have to respect that land, we have to respect that property.”