An essay by blogger Damien Lee has called out local Twitter users for racism following the James Street Swing Bridge fire.
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Cultural bridges were metaphorically burning on Twitter as the James Street Swing Bridge was engulfed in literal flames earlier this week.
An essay titled Burning Bridges by Damien Lee, a blogger originally from Fort William First Nation, has been garnering attention in the community by highlighting some racist tweets made when news of the bridge fire hit social media Tuesday evening.
In his post, Lee says "The Thunder Bay Twitter community lit up with racism like a Christmas tree once news spread that the main bridge into Fort William First Nation was on fire."
One tweet that inspired the blogger’s essay stated "With the res [sic] bridge on fire, we just need to find a way to block off the other entrance to the res [sic] and this town will be saved!"
Another Twitter fired off a message that stated "That fire on the bridge could just keep travelling towards the rest of the reserve. #justsaying #saveTBay."
Lee acknowledged the young age of the people making the remarks and said their comments demonize Indigenous communities.
"Such comments ghettoize Fort William First Nation; we should be locked up like animals and left to burn to death in our own cage," Lee writes.
The backlash on Twitter has been severe with one person saying they were "shameful acts of racism from youth that have no respect."
But it appears some of the Twitter users who made offensive tweets are now on the run. One of the accused accounts has been deleted while other accounts have been made private since the bloggers essay hit the web.
Mayor Keith Hobbs is disappointed by the online remarks, and said the city has been working hard with the anti-racism committee, Diversity Thunder Bay, the Respect campaign and other initiatives to tackle racism in the community.
The city also signed a declaration of commitment with Fort William First Nation to strengthen the relationship between the two communities.
Despite those initiatives being underway, the mayor said there is still more to do and he's even had racist comments made to him.
"I had one fellow say to me ‘if I had known you were such an Indian lover, I would've never voted for you.' There are still a lot of issues in Thunder Bay that have to be addressed," he said.
Despite that, and much of the online commentary, Hobbs still believes that racist residents are in the minority in this community.
"It's not a rampant thing in Thunder Bay but it's something you have to address," said Hobbs.
Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau was shocked and disheartened there is still brutal hate and racism in this day and age.
These comments have an everlasting impact, especially when directed at certain ethnic groups, she told TBT News, adding it makes the community feel they have to defend their integrity.
Morriseau has been speaking with Hobbs and said there may be a press conference Friday to address the matter.
She said it's important to come together to show people the two communities will not accept racism.
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