A sign of the times
WORTHINGTON -- Every election year, people particularly involved in politics post signs in their yard declaring their support for a candidate or a political party. And every year, mischief makers pull the signs out to put in other yards, vandalize or destroy.
According to Worthington Police Captain Chris Dybevick, the culprits are generally juveniles doing random acts of sign heisting, and most people don't bother to report the loss.
But this year, the Nobles County DFL Party has noticed a disturbing trend that Deb Hogenson, secretary of the Nobles County DFL, said is depriving them of their right to express political views.
The DFL group believes there is a small group of people targeting the Barack Obama signs -- travelling with a clipper to cut zip ties and gathering up Obama signs from all over Worthington.
In a prepared statement, Nobles County DFL Chair Doug Bauman said the theft of the signs is more than property theft -- it robs them of their freedom of speech.
"A group of people in our community want to suppress any show of support for Senator Obama in Worthington," he said. "They want to suppress freedoms guaranteed by our nation's constitution."
"They are taking the Obama signs only," said Bob Emary. "And all of them."
Bauman said signs have gone missing throughout the campaign, but Monday night "they basically cleaned out the town." Yard signs both large and small have disappeared, even those that have been replaced several times. But whoever is taking the signs is only grabbing the ones with Obama's name on them. Richard Peterson, Al Franken and Mike McCarvel signs have not moved.
"They usually take them all and move them to another yard," said Dale Moerke, who represents the UFCW 1161.
So, why are only the Obama signs missing?
"There could be a number of reasons," said Hogenson who was hesitant to consider the thefts racially motivated but not convinced the disappearing signs are a prank. "It shows a change in civility in campaigning in out society."
Hogenson cited several instances of rudeness she has experienced while door-knocking for the DFL party, and spoke of a person that refused to shake a candidate's hand.
"You should respect the other side," she explained. "It is a marketplace of ideas. That is what campaigning is all about."
Bauman said the tenor of recent rallies has changed, with more name-calling and mud slinging. But when the Obama signs started to go missing, the DFLers started watching the John McCain signs.
"They are always there," he said. "None have gone missing that we have seen."
Emary has a list of at least 14 signs that have gone missing, and on Tuesday, three people called the law enforcement center to advise authorities of missing signs.
"We are taking this seriously," Dybevick explained. "Theft of a sign is still a theft."
"We ask our fellow citizens across the political spectrum to stand up against the thieves," Bauman said in his statement. "Help us protect our democracy by reporting any thefts or vandalism to political signs of any kind."
Dybevick encourages those who have signs stolen to report it to law enforcement. Anyone who has information on the stolen signs can call the Crime Anonymous tip line at 376-TIPS.