Sign Thefts Bring Calls for Civility
Representatives on both sides of the proposed Amendment One issue are calling for cooler heads to prevail as the May 8 primary approaches.
Southern Pines resident Rob Deucher said he is telling fellow local supporters of Amendment One to be civil as the the primary nears.
“We are trying to get the issue talked about,” Deucher said.
Opponents of Amendment One are taking a similar stand.
The calls for civility strengthened late this week after Pinehurst police on Wednesday charged a West End woman with stealing political signs opposing Amendment One and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Heidi Smith Thompson, 44, of Maplewood Lane, appeared before a magistrate Wednesday and was released. Her first court appearance is May 24.
Attempts to reach Thompson for comment were unsuccessful by deadline.
The Amendment One measure on the May 8 primary ballot would change the North Carolina Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman only and declare it as the only valid union in North Carolina.
Police said Thompson admitted to taking three signs on April 18 after an individual observed her take them from an area near the intersection of Morganton Road and N.C. 5 and reported the act to authorities.
Pinehurst police have said the theft of political signs is common, but this is the first time they have brought charges against an individual.
Stealing, vandalizing, defacing or unlawfully removing a lawfully placed political sign in North Carolina is a Class 3 misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is 20 days in jail. Fines for Class 3 misdemeanor convictions can be as high as $200.
“It is a very unfortunate situation,” said anti-Amendment One supporter Michael Edwards. “But it has generated a tremendous amount of discussion and I think that is healthy.”
Earlier this week, a representative from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Southern Pines reported someone came on church property and removed and vandalized signs. The most recent incident happened over the weekend.
Diana Wake, the church secretary who reported the incident, said eight signs were stolen and another damaged.
“Somebody wadded up one sign and placed it in the gutter,” Wake said.
She said someone is also picking up signs and laying them on the ground, or placing other signs to obscure the pro-Amendment One signs.
Wake said she thought that the charges in Pinehurst may help curb shenanigans from now until Election Day.
“I think it has probably put a lot of people in check, because they are saying, ‘I don’t want that to happen to me.’ It is a good thing this is all going to be over on Tuesday,” she said.
Deucher said he has had so many signs stolen on Broad Street in Southern Pines that “it isn’t even worth replacing them.”
Deucher said he was even stopped by Pinehurst Police at 4 a.m. when he was putting out some political signs before going to work. He said he allowed police to search his car.
In an email Deucher sent to supporters dated April 26, he outlined his position clearly.
“In particular, we commit ourselves to the First Amendment right of freedom of expression by not condoning anyone from removing or desecrating signage against the Marriage Amendment.”
The email was prompted, Deucher said, by a discussion with Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger, that urged political leaders to reach out to their supporters and urge them to support everyone’s First Amendment rights, and not break the law.
Deucher also hopes that everyone will remain calm at the polls.
“We don’t want to see the worst of humanity,” he said.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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