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Community advocate victim of 'pure hate' in downtown Barrie (VIDEO)

'I am traumatized. Now I don’t feel safe and it shouldn’t be that way because we do good things,' says Shanicka Edwards, who's known throughout the city as Shak

Editor's note: The video attached to this story contains language that may be unsuitable for some readers. 
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What started off as a “regular Friday” ended in well-known community advocate Shanicka Edwards being attacked verbally and physically outside of her downtown Barrie community centre this morning. 

Known as Shak throughout the community, Edwards was at the Maple Avenue facility to open the doors for one of Shak’s World Community Centre’s regular community groups when a vehicle abruptly stopped in the middle of the street and the driver began screaming and yelling racial slurs. 

“It was very aggressive,” Edwards said. “(She was) telling me to ‘go back where I came from.’ ... I was born in Canada and I grew up in Simcoe County. ... I didn’t understand to say the least.”

When the woman proceeded to get out of the car, Edwards started recording the incident. 

“I was in shock. I thought she was going to scream and then drive away, but then she got out of her car. I didn’t say a word to her the entire time, even when she was screaming at me," Edwards said. 

After exiting the vehicle, Edwards explained the woman punched her twice in the head and continued to scream at her and the women who were trying to protect Edwards. 

Jenn Guerin and Sarah Jensen, who work with Simcoe County Down Syndrome Association, witnessed the incident as they were waiting to get inside the building. They said the incident was “very obviously” racially motivated.

“It was obvious when she got out of the car that it was racially motivated. We saw she was going towards Shak, so we wanted to protect her,” said Guerin. “She stopped the car in the middle of the road and came running at Shak and hit her in the head, and we automatically went and shielded her.

"It was quite shocking and hard to even articulate what happened," Guerin added. "She was very hateful and saying a lot of racially geared things. It was just our impulse to protect her.”

The woman kept on trying to get close to Edwards and was “really worked up," Jensen said. 

"I think the lady realized she wasn’t going to get through us and got back in her car, backed up and... yelled a bunch more things and then took off,” Jensen said. “We could tell it was racially motivated, so we all felt we could hopefully provide some safety.”

Edwards, who was still visibly shaken and suffering from a headache from the attack when she spoke to a reporter at the scene, called the incident one of “pure hate."

“Shak's World is an organization that was put here to create representation for the underrepresented in this community,” said Edwards. “This situation came out of nowhere. We have had such a great time trying to create a community within a community and build understanding with everyone (and) to be attacked like that?

"I am traumatized. Now I don’t feel safe and it shouldn’t be that way because we do good things… and we have good conversations about very sensitive but important topics," she added. 

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon said "the video is disturbing to watch," but did capture the incident, the vehicle and the licence plate that the person fled in.

“We know who it is we are looking for and we do have officers while they're on patrol are looking for the vehicle that was involved this morning, as well as the female driver," he said. "Hopefully we will be able to find her in the next day or so and hold that person accountable for their actions."

Nothing like this has ever happened at the facility before, Edwards said, but it has left her feeling unsafe at a place she has worked so hard to help others feel safe.

“How do I feel safe? If this was a typical morning and I was here by myself, I would have been beaten up in front of my facility and how awful would that be?” she said, describing the shield made around her as a physical manifestation of what needs to be done on a regular basis. 

“This is what we need is for people to protect the BIPOC community, to protect people who are doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. If they weren’t there, I would have been in serious danger.”

Edwards admitted it will take some time to try to digest how  and why  this happened. 

“It’s unfortunate, but since the very beginning of this journey, I have had to fight with what I do and who I am because a lot of people look at my physical appearance and they see this young, Black person," she said. "They don’t look at what I’ve created, and (that is) an inter-connected community which is so much bigger than just who is standing here.

“I think 2020 made it very hard for Black entrepreneurs, young people, to move forward, because there is this stigma behind us. I don’t know what it is," Edwards added. 

"We are just trying to be great and create beautiful things, but there’s constantly these blocks and it’s very frustrating.”

The police investigation is ongoing and Leon said the video is extremely helpful in this type of investigation.

"It pretty much tells the whole story without anybody having to say anything," he said. "We can be thankful, first and foremost, that nobody was seriously injured, that the nature of the assault is minor and that nobody was struck by that vehicle.

"Right now, we are conducting an investigation that is focused around the assault and dangerous operation of a vehicle."




About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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