Standing at a burly 6’2″ and sporting a shaved head, cool shades and a black vest, Corey Fleischer looks like an action film hero as he moves around Montreal. His fight is against the bad guys who paint hateful graffiti on public and private property, and his weapon is a power washing wand.
Fleischer simply cannot turn a blind eye to the anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racial slurs and symbols he sees all over. The owner of a power washing company he opened after graduating from university with a women’s studies degree, he dedicates many hours of his personal time to removing the markings.
For the past five years, Fleischer has been on a one-man mission to rid Canada’s second-largest city of visual hate speech. But with word having gotten out in the media about what he’s been doing, demand for his services has risen dramatically in recent months. What started as a sort of hobby for Fleischer has turned into an extensive undertaking that will require more manpower, not to mention water pressure.
As a result, Fleischer is trying to develop a cadre of like-minded people to fight the blight wrought by spray paint can-wielding bigots. He’s launched a fundraising and awareness campaign with the aim of creating a network of hate graffiti removers across Canada.
It’s not just walls he removes the markings from. With his professional skill and knowledge, he is able to make swastikas and the like disappear from every kind of surface, including glass windows, car hoods and train trestles.
“People just don’t pay attention to this problem. If it doesn’t affect you personally, then you ignore it,” Fleischer told The Times of Israel.
He said nothing makes him happier than removing hate graffiti and relieving people of the distress and feelings of victimization that it causes them.
“There was this five-foot-tall swastika painted on a lady’s house just a few blocks from where I grew up. It had been there for 15 years. She tried to cover it over with paint, but you could still see. I guess she couldn’t afford to have it properly removed,” he said.
“After I removed it she was so relieved. She told me, ‘I’ll never be able to forget, but now I’ll be able to forgive.'”
In another incident, Fleischer was called in this past February to remove swastikas painted on the hoods of cars in a garage in a primarily Jewish Montreal neighborhood.
“It wasn’t just the graffiti. There were bullets left on the car windshields with a threatening note,” Fleischer said.
A chance conversation with someone at a B’nai Brith softball league game led Fleischer (who also plays hockey) to his helping B’nai B’rith Canada track anti-Semitic and other hate crimes by documenting his work. He photographs each example of graffiti before removing it.
According to Fleischer, he removed a total of approximately 35 hateful markings around the city between 2010 and 2014. But in just the last six months he’s removed close to 80.
Fleischer himself pays for all the expenses related to his traveling around Montreal and removing the hateful graffiti.
“I would pay people to allow me to make this stuff disappear,” he said.