Campaign Signs Stolen, Vandalized
Moore County residents are reporting widespread theft and vandalism of political signs in the area.
In the midst of a contentious political season, with the general election less than two weeks away, many Democrats are claiming that signs supporting their candidates are disappearing or being destroyed. Some Republican signs have also been targeted.
"It's really widespread," said Mary Alice Wicker, who works at the Democratic Party headquarters in Carthage. "I know that people are very concerned about it."
Obama-Biden signs appear to be the most frequently targeted, according to residents who have contacted The Pilot. While the thefts could be attributed to the signs being in high demand because of Obama's historic campaign, many residents believe they are being taken maliciously.
There have been several eyewitness accounts of individuals picking up these signs or running them over. Others have noticed that black McCain-Palin signs have replaced the Obama signs in many locations. Some residents have even said bumper stickers have been ripped off parked cars.
Leo Goins, an Obama supporter from Eastwood, said he has had 11 signs stolen. While the signs can be acquired from the Democratic Party free of charge, Goins purchased his from Obama headquarters in Southern Pines for $10 apiece. The cost is counted as a donation to the campaign.
"I can't afford them anymore," he said. "Something needs to be done."
Bonnie Thompson, a volunteer at Obama's Southern Pines office, said she has heard numerous reports of vandalism. One Obama supporter had a sign on her mailbox, which was later run over. Another had a sign removed from a tree in her yard. One supporter reported Wednesday that a McCain sign was placed in her yard overnight. Garbage was thrown all over the yard of another supporter.
Thompson has also noted a disturbing racial undertone taking place. One Obama supporter observed a family using racial slurs after spotting an Obama bumper sticker outside a local restaurant. Thompson said she herself was accosted in a parking lot by an individual who asked her if she knew she was supporting a "Muslim." Thompson, who has worked on other political campaigns, said she has never seen anything like this.
"I've never, ever experienced anything to this degree," she said. "It's really incredible."
Some local Republicans also report that their signs are being stolen and vandalized.
George Schofield with the county Republican Party said all 24 precinct chairmen in the county are reporting missing signs. He also was notified that some 30 GOP signs had been dumped inside a fenced-in area at a local storage facility. Schofield said that the party will pick up those signs soon. He added that he did not believe the Democratic Party was behind it.
There have also been reports of someone painting McCain-Palin signs to read "McCain-Falin."
Even an unaffiliated candidate has been targeted. Tony Berk, candidate for Moore County District Attorney, said that a number of his signs had disappeared. He noticed that a lot of signs have been "bracketed" by others so they are out of view. He had also heard reports of political signs being stolen for "target practice" by gun owners.
Brian Deaton, chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party, said he was disappointed with the actions of these individuals.
"The county parties and the campaigns are expending a good amount of money on these signs," he said. "This is a real interference with freedom of speech."
Deaton said he has spoken with Moore County Republican Party chairman John Owen and that they are both disturbed at this type of activity. Deaton said he has told his precinct officials that it is unacceptable.
"It's just unfortunate," he said. "This is not what our political process is supposed to be about. I wish people had a greater appreciation of the expense taken by both sides."
Owen agreed with Deaton and said the actions prove that those responsible have little understanding of First Amendment rights. He also said the people who were stealing demonstrated a lack of intelligence and called them "cowards."
He said his party's volunteers have gone to great lengths to put up McCain-Palin signs all over the county and was disappointed that so many of them had been removed.
Local police departments say they are aware of the situation and are keeping a close watch, though there haven't been many official reports filed.
Capt. Floyd Thomas with the Pinehurst Police Department said he had received no official reports but has advised his officers to be vigilant.
"Officers are looking out for it," Thomas said.
Lt. Rodney Hardy of the Southern Pines Police Department said that any such theft requires investigation.
"Theft of anybody's property, whether it is sitting on the side of the road or not, is larceny and we have to investigate."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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