A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Yard signs, bumper stickers becoming targets for political hate crimes; stifles free speech

To politicians and political activists, bumper stickers and yard signs have always been a cost-effective and easy way to invigorate political support, but sadly today they are quickly becoming a tool for people to target others to commit political hate crimes.

In 2014 I wrote an article titled ‘Don’t Show, Don’t Tell to keep vehicle safe from vandals” at which time I tried to prove my hypothesis that political bumper stickers increase vandalism to vehicles. At that time I had a hard time finding enough incidents to prove my case, even though I had previously witnessed an incident where a teenager stopped to vandalize a vehicle with a Bush (1992) bumper sticker in a mall parking lot several years before.

Trump Yard Sign

Fast-forward 20 months with the 2016 Presidential campaign in full swing and there are untold numbers of incidents of political hate crimes recorded of vandalism to homes and cars.

Not single out any single group of supports between Presidential candidates, I searched the internet for incidents involving all presidential candidates and supporters. What I learned was that there were incidents involving both Republican and Democratic supporters, but there were a very disproportionate and alarming number of political hate crimes against Trump supporters worth noting.

In Jackson, MS somebody backed a truck up to a Hillary sign and started slinging mud onto the sign, while across town somebody lit a Trump sign on fire on somebody’s front lawn.

Hillary free-yard-sign-in-Iowa

In Portland progressive talk-radio host Carl Wolfson claimed that a Bernie Sanders supporter smeared an Anti-Hillary Clinton Message on his car with feces.

A student at Saint Mary’s College (SMC) of California was charged with harassment by his peers for de-facing Trump bumper stickers on their vehicles.

In Gainesville, Virginia a 70-year-old woman awoke to find her Trump sign stolen with her white house spray-painted with the words “revolution” and “can you see the new world through the tear gas.”

She later claimed that a motorcyclist stopped to threaten her life.

In Washington a Trump supporter had his tire slashed and car vandalized by a Bernie Sanders supporter, who even later admitted in a written confession to police “I on the 11th day of the 4th month of 2016 did maliciously attack a hate symbol protected by free speech. After disturbing the vehicle and dumping rotten food into the interior I feel I have improved the community and supported our nation’s values by stopping a promoter of hate speech. I do not wish to have ignorant bigots in my town and in a just world the person deserved what was received. . .”

In June of this year a Brooklyn NY family’s front door was shattered by a rock late at night in suspected retaliation for putting up pro-Trump signs. The vandalism caused $2400 in damages.

In Clearwater, FL a supporter started to have his Trump signs inside near a winder to keep them from being stolen. He later had his home vandalized with eggs and truck keyed and spray-painted.

Trump Yard Sing pic from Ebay

In Ceres, CA another supporter had his house egged, Trump flags stolen and paint splattered on his truck and his boat. They left him a message in permanent ink on his truck tool box that said, “F-Trump.”

I love a good political debate, but at the end of the day I am going to agree to disagree with you and shake your hand. This is what makes this country so great, where we all are allowed to express our opinions and be protected by our First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

But something has noticeably changed in this country in the last few months, as we are starting to see an usual number of incidents of political hate crimes and many people are becoming more afraid to prominently display their political beliefs. For instance during this political campaign season, have you noticed that there are fewer political bumper stickers on the vehicles as you are driving through town? And we are only three months away from the general elections.

In an effort to write this article I talked to several co-workers, neighbors and friends and almost all acknowledged that the tone of the campaign has turned ugly, and many now fear that it may arrive on their door-step or in parking lot if they are not too careful.

Many said that they were going to avoid placing a presidential bumper sticker on any of their vehicles this year and were seriously considering avoiding placing a yard sign in their yard this year as well, for fear of reprisals and vandalism to their property.

Given the nature of political hatred that has grown worse with the advent of social media and cable TV — I still strongly believe in the “Don’t Show Don’t Tell” philosophy when it comes to identifying your political affiliations on your vehicles or in front of your home.

Hillary Yard Sig1

Instead I believe that less is more in this situation, as you are only inviting trouble and unnecessary expenses. Maybe it has something to do with my risk management and safety profession, but I do know that with a $500 deductible on my auto insurance policy, I don’t dare prominently display my political affiliations.

I must admit that it’s a sad day in America where we now must be concerned with our safety and well-being of our property when it comes to supporting our candidates. I don’t want to discourage others from expressing their 1st amendment rights, but I would advise that you just make sure that your insurance premiums on your homeowners and auto insurance policies are paid up on time.

Here are a few helpful tips for avoid a political hate crime/vandalism:

Avoid using political bumper stickers and yard signs.
If you have a garage, use it – for parking your vehicle, especially at night. If you don’t have a garage then park your vehicle in well-lit areas, underneath a street light or near an area protected by security cameras, which could be a deterrent.
Park your vehicle away from people and off normal walking areas where it can’t be seen.
When parking in a parking garage or parking lot, consider backing your vehicle up so that people can’t see your bumper sticker as it sits idle.
Park near front entrances where you vehicle is visible to others.
Be friendly to others while driving and to others in your neighborhood so that they don’t have a secondary reason to leave you a surprise.
Lower your deductible on your insurance so that you won’t be out too much money if or when you car is vandalized.
Install additional security lights and security cameras around your home to help deter vandalism.

Be Safe My Friends.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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One Comment

  1. amblush617 says:

    ~~ I’m also one of them .. When Hillary ran in 2008, I had a yard sign, a pin I wore on my hat, but knew if I put one out this time, it would have been stolen or damaged ..because the GOP let drumpf be this way, instead of reining him in, he’s encouraged Americans who already have this tendency, really let loose w/all their hatred & violence .. though, luckily Americans are being turned off .. too bad there’s no way to turn this hatred off now that it’s been unleashed .. smh! #Imwithher ~~

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