currents

When political signs disappear

Signs are common casualties in the 2020 election, but people are coming up with creative ways to hold onto them

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 10/28/20

It was the Great Bipartisan Disappearing Sign Cluster.

The cluster is—make that “was”—at the end of the bridge from Callicoon, in PA, just under the “Welcome to …

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currents

When political signs disappear

Signs are common casualties in the 2020 election, but people are coming up with creative ways to hold onto them

Posted

It was the Great Bipartisan Disappearing Sign Cluster.

The cluster is—make that “was”—at the end of the bridge from Callicoon, in PA, just under the “Welcome to Pothole, PA” sign. Both Republican and Democratic candidates were represented: Jim Bognet, Matt Cartwright, Trump/Pence and Biden/Harris.

By mid-October, all the signs were gone.

Sign-stealing is nothing new. In 2012, Lizette Alvarez in the New York Times wrote, “[Signs] serve as proxies, easy targets, for all the fury, disappointment and disgust the presidential race has stirred, at least among some voters.”

But despite this, people keep putting signs up in support of their candidate of choice.

Witness: A couple days later under the Pothole sign, a new Cartwright sign popped up, then a new Biden/Harris. During the morning commute on Wednesday, the presidential sign disappeared.

Social media has been full of discussion about how to keep your sign where you’ve placed it, whatever your political party. (See box for suggestions.)

Lordville, PA resident Paul Browde had a different idea as he watched Biden signs disappear. It could be replicated by anyone, Republican or Democrat.

“The seeds of it began when Biden signs had been stolen or desecrated,” he said. “They were just destroyed.”

In his area, the Trump signs stayed put, but reportedly, in Damascus and Narrowsburg they’ve disappeared, too.

Sign-stealing “creates fear,” Browde said. “You’re a target.”

So how do you counter that?

A house near his had been painted beautifully, basically creating a work of art on the building. “It has a loving feel,” he said, and that gave him an idea. “We need a mural, so no one can take it.”

The homeowner, Boris Kheyman, had five old windows and paint left over from the house-painting. He handed it off to Browde, who, with other neighbors set to work creating art. “It was a very binding experience.”

Sign-stealing or sign-vandalism is illegal in all 50 states, writes attorney Kellie Pantekoek on FindLaw. In most states, it’s treated as a misdemeanor but fines vary.

Remember, too, that stealing a sign on someone’s property is also criminal trespass.

Paul Browde and his neighbors started by painting an American flag, partly because nobody owns it, and partly because sign-stealers might be more respectful of the flag. They painted it across the windows.

They chose the wording very deliberately. “I did not want it to be anti-Trump,” he said. He wanted it to be pro-Biden. And about love.

So it says:

Love America

Vote Biden/Harris

Three very heavy tree trunks were found, and the work was secured to it.

People drive by or stop by and look at it, Browde said. It’s still there, and the effect has been contagious. “It’s been there for over two weeks now and the Biden signs on the road haven’t been taken” either.

“It feels very reassuring to say what we need to say,” he said.

How to (try to) hold onto your sign

Sign-stealing is bipartisan. Both sides resent it, and both sides are coming up with creative ways to deal with the problem.

In the NYT story from 2012, one woman donated to her candidate’s campaign every time her sign was stolen. She put out a homemade sign warning thieves what would happen. The sign disappeared anyway.

People have used cameras. A Nest camera caught a sign thief in Bel Air, MD (www.bit.ly/nestcam44 ).

Animal poop. Apparently, this is meant to discourage thieves but it does seem kind of disrespectful to your own sign.

Some people are greasing their signs.

Maybe you could bring the sign in at night?

Surround sign with a fence?

A barbed-wire fence?

An electric fence?

A moat?

The Washington Post has a litany of deterrents: “Vaseline and cayenne pepper. Vaseline and glitter. Vaseline, Tabasco sauce and glitter. Vaseline and pink glitter. Honey and glitter. Dog poop and glitter.”

It reports, and personal experience attests, that glitter, once it comes into contact with human skin, is with you for a long, long time. If you can’t paint your own mural, maybe this is a sparkly and inexpensive way to show your pride. And to keep a totally clear conscious seek out that eco-friendly biodegradable glitter.

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