In every political season there are thefts reported of campaign signs. Its a favorite pastime for the thoughtfully challenged of either party. The media often does a great job at portraying this as not "politically motivated", its just kids, or a moral equivalency argument. However that belies the facts. Example, an unreported, to police that is, incident one afternoon in Saint Paul, of a woman with a young child in her back car seat. She pulled up, jumped out, looked both ways, yanked a Republican candidates sign out and jumped back in her car, quickly driving off. She didn't see the people in the living room window watching her. Sign theft is a fundamental attack on the constitution and the individual right for free expression. Dismissing it as "just kids" or "both sides do it" ignores reality and the thuggish techniques of silencing.
I have had 4 incidents of thefts of signs in my yard this year. There were 3 thefts where the thief took the Vote Yes on Marriage sign only. These were done after dusk and before 10PM. This Sunday morning 11/4/2012 at 3:35AM (or possibly 2:35AM with the time change) two men drove up and stole all 9 of the signs from my yard (Mitt Romney, Kurt Bills, Tony Hernandez CD4, Duane "Swede" Johnson SD43, Kevin Klein HD43B, Rich Bennett ISD622, Tim Tinglestad Supreme Court, Vote Yes Voter ID, and Vote Yes Marriage Amendment). In this case, I was recording their actions. Just as an analytical note, given the difference in the time of the theft, I believe the earlier thefts were from a different individual or individuals. So if you recognize the people, or their car, please give a call to the Oakdale Police.
See video above.
The most frustrating thing for me, in the discussions/articles I have seen, is that I put up signs for candidates all around CD4. So more than most I look at signs, from both sides, to look for placements and where coverage is inadequate. In the areas I drive, I have never seen any Vote No or Democrat sign dumped, defaced, or missing. Ok, maybe I might not trip to a few missing, but defaced, dumped, pulled out and lying down, I'd notice. However damage, removal, and defacing has been extremely common on Vote Yes and Republican signs. When people tell me their signs were stolen, I tell them to report it to the police, though few ever do. We will probably never know the real statistics. I know opposing readers will say, "but your just ignoring or don't see the other side". And it is human nature, that if it doesn't fit their world view, they tend to force things into the model that "its always the other side..". Until something comes crashing in to upset the world as they know it. However, I specifically look for, stop, and often repair, every down/defaced sign I see [once I know whose it is and would have permission to do so]. I can only comment that, Pioneer Press articles aside, I have never found one to be other than Vote Yes or Republican when I have stopped. That's a whole lot of improbability.
Attached are some of the pictures I have taken as I have been putting up and repairing signs.
Picture 1) Dettmer sign uprooted and tossed amongst the still standing Democrat signs.
Picture 2) The thieves must have been scared off by something in mid theft here on Hwy 36. They took the Supreme Court Dan Griffith sign, had uprooted a Dettmer sign and were attempting to uproot a 4x8 Tony Hernandez sign. They left with only one post pulled out (no ground pushed up behind it as would be done by wind) and left the Dettmer sign.
Picture 3) In front of the Hernandez campaign office they only left the re-bar, I later found the sign with a boot print in the middle of it, down the road. Many others have simply gone missing, re-bar and all.
Picture 4) Showing their complete ignorance of the issues, and projecting their own feelings and attitudes, has been common on the amendment issues. This was on Hwy 36, right next to the Union Hall where the entire Democrat roster of signs (as well as Vote NO) still stands, undisturbed and un-defiled.
Of course there are exceptions, and Huffington Post reported a Democrat sign damaged as well.
Obama Lawn Sign Attacked By Deer
Tom and Beth Priem said concern over repeated tears in an Obama lawn sign in their front yard led to concern about vandals, KXAN.com reports. Beth Priem sat up one morning with a video camera hoping to catch the culprit and discovered the problem was actually something with four legs. (Video included)
The claims do come from both sides, as the Pioneer Press write:
Pioneer Press Editorial: Stealing signs? Sheesh
Free speech is at the heart of our political process;
we may not agree, but our democratic principles -- to say nothing of Minnesota Nice -- hold us to a law-abiding standard of respect and civility.
Shaw's report noted that Crista Walsh of Woodbury recently was driving by an empty lot when she came across about 30 "Vote No" signs, along with others for Democratic candidates. She returned one "Vote No" sign to a neighbor, whose sign had been stolen. That night, it was stolen again.
"It seems that we should be so much better than this," Walsh said. Indeed, we should.
Thieves have swiped his "Vote Yes" signs twice, and some neighbors have been hit three times.
They got letters from the thief. The letters purportedly are from a closeted gay man, angry and hurt by their signs.
Each letter included personal information. The Goetsches' letter said, "You don't know me, but I know your parents ... I went to school with your daughter."
The writer continued: "I don't believe Jesus would approve of intentionally hurting any of his children -- and that is what this amendment does ... Voting 'yes' doesn't make you a good Christian -- it makes you a bigot."
Herb's wife Judy scoffed at that argument. "It says we are good people, but if we don't think the way he does, we are bigots," she said.
"For every one he steals, I am going to put up two," Herb Goetsch said.
"It has scared us a little bit," said Goetsch. "What is next? Are they going to start breaking windows, harming our property or physically harming us?"
Putnam, the distributor of "Vote Yes" signs, estimates he has given out more than 400 signs. Of those, about half have been stolen.
"It's frustrating," he said.
And there is ample evidence of such fear being well founded. Take the case of the horrific beating of Sean Kedzie in Wisconsin.
A brutal beating is blamed on politics. State Senator Neil Kedzie's son was attacked last week. He says he was beat up because of a Mitt Romney yard sign. Kedzie doesn't have any question about what prompted the attack.
He says, "It's definitely politically motivated when they say things like F-Romney and Romney sucks and go Obama."
Kedzie was taken to the emergency room by ambulance that night. He says initially doctors thought he may have had a fractured skull and eye socket.
Theft is theft, and thuggish tactics to intimidate and suppress are wrong regardless of who you think you are or what you imagine to be the superiority of your side! Your opinion is yours to express, but you have no right to attempt to silence others who are simply exercising theirs. While I hope the thieves who denied me my rights are caught and punished, I am under no illusion that it is likely. But it would be nice if the signs I put up in my yard, and elsewhere, could be left standing for an entire election, like those at the Union Hall.