Prescott has been hit by political vandalism. Sometime between late Sunday night and early Monday morning, political signs on Whipple Street near downtown Prescott were defaced with graffiti and knocked down by one or more unknown vandals. In a year of unprecedented political unrest and civil disorder across the country, Prescott has not been spared.
A City Ordinance allows the placement of political signs on city rights of way sixty days before an election. The signs vandalized Sunday night were placed on private property with the consent of the owner. Pete Walter, who founded Campaign Sign Installation, and who installs signs for candidates, has exclusive arrangements for the placement of candidate signs on many locations throughout Yavapai County. Early Monday morning he was contacted by a private citizen who informed him that a number of signs that had been in place for weeks at the Whipple street location had been torn down and defaced with obscenities.
When he arrived at the location, he found five large 4 x 4 foot signs, and one 4 x 6 foot sign, bent, broken, or torn from the steel stakes that anchors them in place. Several of the signs had graffiti drawn or spray painted on the images of candidates’ faces depicting graphic sexual acts. The drawings coupled with the fact that the steel stakes used to anchor the signs were bent or torn from the ground eliminates the possibility that wind or weather could have been responsible.
Walter, who has placed candidate signs for years, described it as the worst act of political vandalism he has witnessed. It is not uncommon for signs to disappear or be damaged by weather. But this was a deliberate act of political vandalism. He described it as an affront to the community because it violates the right of candidates to bring their campaigns to the attention of voters. It’s a free speech issue that goes to the heart of free and democratic elections.
There did not appear to be a pattern or specific political message involved. In some cases the candidates are running for the same office. The candidates whose signs were vandalized, include U.S. Senate candidates Daniel McCarthy and Martha McSally, State House candidates Quang Nguyen, Judy Burges, and Selina Bliss, Board of Supervisor candidates Harry Oberg and Sherrie Hanna, and County Attorney candidate David Stringer. Stringer, who said he may offer a reward for the apprehension of the person or persons involved stated, “This is much bigger than routine vandalism. This is a political crime that impacts the whole community.”
Police responded to the scene and a formal complaint was filed. Damaging or defacing property is a criminal offense. Anyone with knowledge of this act of political vandalism is encouraged to contact the Prescott City Police Department.