In a community that values free speech and open debate, recent political sign thefts have outraged some community members.
The controversy over Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to allow marriage between only a man and a woman, has spilled over into petty theft and vandalism of lawn signs.
Yes on 8 supporters say they’ve been hit especially hard in Davis, where a large number of signs have been defaced or stolen.
Davis resident Jo Lynn Meirovitz had Yes on 8 signs stolen from her front yard last week.
“People preach tolerance but they are very intolerant of other people,” Meirovitz said. “They see us protecting marriage as full of hate, bigots … and are appalled that we would want to help Prop 8 pass. I’m sure the more signs they see the more frustrated they get.“
Having left the house for only an hour and a half and not expecting her signs to be taken during the middle of the day, Meirovitz found two lawn signs missing upon her return, she said.
“We believe in freedom of speech for everybody, not just one side of this proposition,” Meirovitz said. “Everybody should be able to voice their opinion.“
Davis resident and Cedric Papa is involved in Yes on 8 sign distribution and says voters are calling in daily to report that their signs have been stolen.
Papa, who has had 14 signs taken, estimates that 200 or more may have been taken or vandalized in Davis alone.
“I will follow the law, no matter what happens, so I’d like to get my voice out now,” Papa said. “We are just trying to keep our individual rights and keep the government out of our lives.“
Papa said one group of people went so far as to pretend to support Prop 8 and took 100 signs and dumped them.
Yolo County Republican Party chair Mark Pruner said it has been common in this and previous elections for political signs to be stolen.
“We spend so much money replacing signs, you almost feel violated,” he said.
In addition to sign theft in Davis, there have been several incidences of vandalism and theft in Sacramento, and video of at least two incidences have been posted on YouTube, Pruner said.
“Let’s face it, stealing of political signs is something that always happens,” he said. “We have to budget for paying for more signs.“
There is little legal recourse for people who have had their signs stolen or vandalized, and many don’t bother to report the crimes. The Davis and Sacramento Police Departments and the Yolo County Sheriff all say no police reports regarding stolen or damaged signs have been filed in their jurisdictions.
Among other incidents in Davis are keyed cars displaying Yes on 8 bumper stickers, while last week the Yes on 8 table located on the Quad was hit with water balloons by a group of students yelling “you teach hate,” according to UC Davis graduate student Casey Meirovitz, who is married to Jo Lynn Meirovitz.
“I think yelling ‘you teach hate‘ and exhibiting hate isn’t the coolest thing in the world, especially at a university,” he said. “People feel very passionately about Prop 8 and they are letting it get the best of them. Unfortunately they’re weakening the stance of their argument by acting hypocritically.“
Meirovitz and wife Jo Lynn have since replaced their Yes on 8 signs with a homemade sign made of plywood, attached to a tree in their front yard with a bike lock, a sign that they will not forfeit their right to free speech anytime soon.
Representatives from the No on 8 campaign did not respond to requests for information regarding sign theft or vandalism on their side.
AARON BRUNER can be reached at email@example.com.