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Signs get ripped, kicked, burned as political battle hits the front lawn

CHICAGO – In Illinois, Florida and Arizona, police have been summoned to investigate the burnt Biden signs and Trump’s flags swept overnight. Homeowners, angry at the disappearance of their campaign signs, installed sophisticated motion-activated cameras to catch the culprits. A sneaky few have signs trapped with sharp razor blades glowing beneath.

A few days before the presidential election, Americans are lining up against each other, sometimes directly on their own turf.

“There’s just a lot of bad feelings now, and that’s what it is about,” said Annie Phillips, 82, a retired educator from the Seattle suburbs who had two robbed. Biden signs in his front yard. “I hold my breath until the election is settled.”

Fed up after taking her second sign, Ms Phillips bought a third one and nailed it to her garage door.

Americans are seething with tension and terror. They endured a long combative campaign amid a pandemic and a complicated voting process with an uncertain outcome.

Both parties report acts of political vandalism.

Paul Barden, of Normandy Park, Wash., Was walking around his house on a quiet street last month when an unknown white car, slowing to stop outside, briefly caught his attention through the window.

He hardly thought about it until later, when he stepped outside and made an infuriating discovery: his brand new Trump flag, neatly hung earlier in the day from tiny hooks under the eaves, was gone. Whoever stole it was long gone.

“A discreet thief,” he said on the Nextdoor application, informing his neighbors of the incident.

For Mr. Barden, a former Republican state official who had served in the Marines, the incident has distilled everything that seemed to be happening around him in the country lately. A lack of courtesy and decorum. A growing sense of chaos.

“And yet, I hadn’t noticed it happening in my little corner of the world,” Barden said last week. “Until my flag is taken.”

Skirmishes over garden signs, flags, and other expressions of candidate loyalty emerge regularly every election season, but this year looks more intense.

In Volusia County, Fla., A neighbor punched another in the face because he believed his own Trump sign was being blocked by his neighbor’s Biden sign, authorities said.

Trump-Pence signs have been degraded with stickers. Biden-Harris signs were cut down in the grass. In central Iowa, a Trump sign along a freeway was partially covered with a sheet of black metal spray painted with a Bible verse: “Love one another. John 15. ”On a country road in northeastern Wisconsin this fall, a large Biden sign was pockmarked with fist-sized holes, clipped shutters fluttering in the wind.

Keep up with Election 2020

A Trump panel, trapped with hidden razor blades, injured a Michigan worker moving him because he was placed too close to a road, sending him to hospital to have his bloody hand stitched up .

The uproar comes as demand for campaign signs has exploded in some areas. Steven Slugocki, president of the Democratic Party of Maricopa County, Arizona, said he received ten times more requests for signs than in 2016.

“It’s this interesting dynamic because everyone wants a sign, but people get a sign and it gets robbed,” he said. “It makes people a little more hesitant to put it up, especially in the front yard, but demand has skyrocketed.”

Scott Dressel, public information officer for the Highland County, Florida Sheriff’s Department, is so fed up with the sign wars in his county that he took to Facebook with a message begging residents to drop him .

“I guess that’s a message we’re going to have to get out every election season from now on because people don’t know how to behave like rational adults: DON’T STEAL OR DISTURB CAMPAIGN SIGNS,” he wrote. . (He suggested they vote, write a letter to the editor, or cover their cars with political stickers instead.)

Mr Dressel said he was taken aback by the events of the previous weekend.

One particular neighborhood, which happened to be his, was hit hard by people stealing Biden signs. Shortly after, someone – or people – degraded a line of Trump signs on a major highway through the county.

“They sprayed a big ‘X’ on them, sprayed other things on them that I can’t repeat,” Mr. Dressel said. “We realize that everyone is tense. I am 50 years old and I have never seen such an antagonistic presidential election.

Entire roads have been turned into battlefields of billboards.

In Murrysville, Pennsylvania, the “Route 22 battle royale,” as described by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, began innocently enough. On one side of the road, Mr. Trump’s supporters have transformed an old living room into a “Trump Victory Center,” decked out in red, white and blue. Less than half a mile away, pro-Biden volunteers staked a lot in a medical office building, with a cutout of the former vice president, smiling and wearing a blue mask.

When local Republicans staged a rally that was to draw hundreds of cars along Highway 22, Democrats carried out a “blitz,” lining the road with signs supporting Biden-Harris.

“It looks like a war,” said Michelle McFall, a local Democratic organizer who helped form the grassroots group for Mr. Biden. “People hold their ground as they would in combat, and they strategically plan their actions and counter-actions.”

The next day, Republicans launched “Drain the Swamp” counter messages aimed at Mr. Biden’s long political career.

Jill Cooper, the local president of the Trump Victory Center on Route 22, said they were working hard to vote and positioned themselves on a main road to send a message to Republican voters.

“They can be proud to support the president, that they are not racist, they are not xenophobic, they are not sexist, things that the media and other people always accuse us of,” Ms. Cooper said. “That’s why we are on 22, where 30,000 cars pass per day. We want them to know: ‘You are not alone.’ “

On a farm in western Massachusetts last month, an act of countryside destruction went far beyond sweeping signs back and forth.

Ruth Crane and her husband, Dicken, who is a fourth generation farmer, decided to spray paint a hay bale display with the words ‘Biden Harris’, letting passing motorists know their support for the Democratic presidential ticket.

It wasn’t until the next day that Ms Crane got a frantic call: someone had set the bullets on fire, burning the entire display to the floor.

The community, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, has provided donations and messages of support for the Cranes. A man was quickly arrested and charged with the crime.

“It was a bit of a wake-up call for people,” Ms. Crane said. “We got this message from many people on both sides who said, ‘This is out of control.’”

Reporting was contributed by Sarah Mervosh and Rebecca R. Ruiz in New York, and Johnny diaz In Miami.

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