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Breaking news: Historic downtown banner that offended many to be taken down

Community outrage leads Downtown Guelph Business Association to remove banner that referenced historic murder
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This banner at the corner of Cork Street and Norfolk Road will be removed Monday night. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

A banner on a downtown Guelph light post that many felt was offensive and in poor taste will be taken down Monday night.

The Downtown Guelph Business Association made the decision on Monday afternoon.

Marty Williams, President of the DGBA, said the company that installed the banners will be coming with its bucket truck to do the job.

The banner, one of 151 installed as part of the celebration of Canada's 150th birthday that referenced 151 different significant moments in Guelph's history. It referenced the 1986 conviction of the infamous Wood brothers and their role in the 1984 murder of Karen Thomson. The picture on the banner was the mug shots of the four brothers.

Many citizens, including Mayor Cam Guthrie, were deeply offended by the banner and felt it should not have been part of the project.

The Mayor said he was "appalled" by it and called for the "ill-conceived" banner's removal.

Guthrie took to Twitte to thank the DGBA for its decision to remove the banner.

"We didn't make this up. We're not trying to amplify it. It was a huge story," Williams said, but the DGBA didn't want the controversy over one banner to detract from the greater good of the project as a whole and all the thoughtful, hard work that went into it.

"If this was going to detract from all that, then we need to pull it and move on," he said.

Social media was abuzz with comments, some supportive of the historic intent but most against the banner.

Williams said that after all the outrage, the DGBM felt it was best to remove it.

"It was never our intent to hurt anybody's feelings," Williams said late Monday afternoon.

"We just thought this was an important part of Guelph's history and wanted people to know that these terrible people were arrested, convicted and ultimately deported."

Some on social media called for someone to vandalize the banner and others saying they would boycott downtown businesses until it was removed.

Williams said he polled members of the DGBM on Monday and the "vast majority" of members were supportive, but "in light of the loud amount of noise, we felt it was best to take it down."

He said other approaches, including lauding the police work involved, was considered "but ultimately there's no way of changing this to make people satisfied unless we just take it down, so that's what we're going to do."

There has been no thought about what or if the banner will be replaced.

Williams said there was lots and lots of feedback, much of it respectful dialogue, other not so much.