Leaders of both parties are urging supporters to respect their neighbor’s First Amendment rights.
Surry County Democratic Party chair John Worth Wiles and county GOP chair Dan Kiger released a joint statement on Thursday urging folks not to destroy or steal campaign signs or other means of displaying a person’s political beliefs.
“With election day approaching and the presidential campaigns in top gear, it is inevitable that some supporters will get worked up and succumb to the temptation to do away with some of the competition’s signs,” wrote Kiger and Wiles. “As is often the case, we’ve been contacted about these problems and asked to say something about it.”
“While we may not agree about which candidate is best, the First Amendment protects each person’s right to expression. No person should trespass or damage another person’s property because they don’t like what they’re saying,” continues the statement.
The statement goes on to provide an uplifting view of the political climate in America.
“We’re all more alike than we are different, and we should respect our fellow citizen’s right to free speech. Respect the freedom that our Founding Fathers so respected that they protected it in the Constitution 225 years ago.”
The pair also reminds people trespassing, theft and vandalism are all illegal.
Recently, The News published a story regarding the vandalism of Trump signs on Old Westfield Road in Mount Airy. Since then, others have reported similar acts, and Wiles said he has been hearing much about vandalism and theft of political signs and materials in the county.
Wiles said the reports of such actions are widespread and seem to focus on one race.
“It’s only the presidential race,” said Wiles. “They are leaving all the signs from senate races and local races.”
Wiles said he has even had signs removed from his own yard and office. However, it was a phone call from a fellow Elkin resident which spurred the statement.
“One night somebody went down a street and removed all the Clinton signs,” explained Wiles. “A couple nights later all the Trump signs went missing.”
Wiles said two neighbors — one a Clinton supporter and the other a Trump supporter — urged him to speak out on the matter. He contacted Kiger, who was happy to contribute to the effort.
“It’s obviously happening more,” said Wiles. “There seems to be some people doing it consistently.”
Wiles is also sure the signs in question weren’t removed by any local government officials or the N.C. Department of Transportation. He said signs are being removed from private property rather than the public right of way.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.