RALEIGH — Vandalism has not been limited to just political and campaign signs this election year. Across the state, reports of such vandalism also include personal residences and political party offices.
In a Cary subdivision in Wake County, two cars parked in a family’s driveway were covered in orange spray paint and the word “racist” was painted on the side of one of the vehicles.
The family’s two-car garage was also hit with orange spray paint with the words “F*** Trump.”
The homeowner did not want to be identified but said that he was stunned vandals would attack his home over a sign.
A camera on the family’s home caught the vandal in the act of sneaking up to the home just before 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 6. To date, the police have no suspects.
“I don’t understand this kind of thing,” said the homeowner. He added that it was unnerving to see the person caught on camera sneaking around his front yard and said, “You’re not going to change my mind that way.”
This is just one instance of private property being attacked by vandals. Destruction of political signs and banners started as early as the primary season and continued on into August.
In the Apex area of Wake County, a large wooden sign located on Olive Chapel Road in Apex has also been a target for vandals. The individuals who created the sign tell North State Journal it has been vandalized, painted or broken at least 20 times in the past two months.
The parties maintaining the Olive Chapel Road sign resorted to using a trail camera to keep tabs on the sign. On Sept. 1, the camera coverage paid off. A young male driving what appears to be a Silver or light-colored SUV is seen standing in front of the sign spray painting it. On another occasion, two young females were recorded tampering with the sign.
The Apex Police Department indicated a number of reports have been taken from neighbors in the area, but no suspects have yet been identified in that case.
Only one arrest pertaining to sign vandalism has been made in the Apex area so far. 18-year-old Caroline Quinn Gayle was arrested on Sept. 17 by Apex Police in connection with the vandalism of a Trump campaign sign near Olive Chapel Road. Gayle had sprayed profanity on the sign. She was charged with injury to personal property, a Class 1 misdemeanor, instead of the state statute governing political signs.
Under North Carolina state law, it is a Class 3 misdemeanor for a person to steal, deface, vandalize, or unlawfully remove a political sign that is lawfully placed under this section. The sentence for defacing or stealing a political sign can be up to 20 days in jail and a $200 fine.
In neighboring Holly Springs, a “Wake Strong” yard sign supporting law enforcement was stolen from a front yard in the Windward Pointe subdivision. Police caught up with the thief, who turned out to be a 13-year-old boy. The boy’s parents paid the owners of the sign $5 to replace it.
A Dan Forest for governor sign was stolen out of the front yard of Matthew Schwab’s home in Holly Springs. Matthew has Down Syndrome and has been a vocal advocate for raising awareness about Down Syndrome both through his website, MatthewSchwabSpeaks, and a recent TED Talk he did earlier this year in January.
Schwab posted photos to Facebook along with commentary wondering why someone would steal his sign. He and his mother, Michelle Schwab, also posted photos of the replacement signs they placed in their yard – this time much closer to the house.
Matthew’s mother says that a neighbor’s signage was also stolen. The neighbor confirmed that their Dan Forest for Governor sign had also been taken from their lawn sometime overnight around Oct. 10.
More signs disappeared in the Heritage Heights neighborhood in the Wake Forest area. Two yet unnamed teenage girls were behind those signs being stolen, however, the property owners declined to press charges.
Wake County GOP chairwoman Donna Williams has confirmed to North State Journal that Trump signs are being systematically stolen around Wake County, particularly in Southern Wake. She has been told that someone is paying a crew $5 per sign to steal them and is trying to trace that information to the source. Williams said that their volunteers have sometimes recovered some of the missing signs, finding them discarded in dumpsters behind grocery stores and strip malls.
Vandalism in other counties
Chatham County Republicans on posted to Facebook that their Trump-Pence sign on US 15-501 was slashed and that smaller Trump signs have been stolen from roadsides and private property.
Dozens of campaign signs were stolen and at least two large Trump campaign signs had swastikas drawn or painted on them in Transylvania County.
On the coast, a large “Wilmington for Trump 2020” roadside billboard near downtown Wilmington was vandalized and torn to shreds on its lower half. Many residents of the area, including State House Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick), have reported that their Trump yard signs had been stolen.
In the town of Oriental in Pamlico County, a woman was caught on a trail cam stealing a Trump/Pence yard sign. The woman was later identified and the Pamlico Sheriff’s office says charges are being decided on with help from the local district attorney’s office. Earlier in the year, Trump campaign signs near Highway 55 in Bayboro were vandalized with swastikas spray-painted on them.
In Watauga County, a billboard-sized banner was stolen from its location along Highway 105 in the overnight hours of Sunday. The Watauga County GOP is offering $1,000 reward for information on who stole the sign and is trying to raise money to replace it.
The Congressional race in NC-11 has also seen a wave of vandalism and property destruction. Over the weekend, the Republican candidate, Madison Cawthorn, reported on Facebook about the mass vandalism of his signage, Trump signage and graffiti that covered the Henderson GOP office.
“At 4:55am last morning, activists from far-left fringe Antifa groups acted on the aggressive rhetoric of my opponent and committed gross acts of vandalism and destruction of property across this district. My opponent’s strike force inflicted thousands of dollars of damage to both public and private property,” wrote Cawthorn.
He went on to say that his home and personal property were also targeted.