Campaign signs yanked from yards in Rifle
When Susan Nichols-Alvis returned to her Rifle home after a weekend camping trip, she noticed something off about her yard. One of her campaign signs was missing, and it wasn’t the one supporting Scott Tipton, or the one for John Martin, or the one for Jeff Cheney or the one for Darryl Glenn. It was the one supporting Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Nichols-Alvis is far from the only resident to have a sign stolen or defaced, and more often than not it’s a sign supporting Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, even in the more conservative-leaning western portion of Garfield County.
“We’re seeing it from Carbondale and it’s been as far as Battlement (Mesa),” said David Merritt, chair of the Garfield County Republicans.
Earlier this month a 4-foot-by-8-foot Trump sign was stolen from private property in Pitkin County. Three other signs supporting Republican candidates for other offices were left in place.
For Nichols-Alvis, who said other neighbors reported having their Trump signs stolen, the issue is not about political leanings or beliefs; it’s about theft and attempting to stifle free speech.
“This is a matter of legality and respect for what we believe in,” she said.
While Merritt says Trump signs are more frequently the target of such attacks, they are not limited to one candidate or party.
“I think this election is just bringing out the worst of everyone on both sides,” said Danielle Willey, who lives off U.S. 6 between Rifle and Silt.
Willey, who never posted yard signs prior to this election, has had her “Hillary for prison” sign stolen at least four times. It is interesting, she said, considering the sign is not an endorsement of a candidate.
“There’s no way for them to know,” Willey said. “For all they know we could be Bernie Sanders supporters. … It was kind of humorous.”
In any election, campaign signs can serve as easy targets for vandals or political opponents, but there seems to be an increase this year, Merritt observed.
“We’ve had some 4-by-8 signs pulled off walls — it’s not just some kids walking by and grabbing a yard sign stuck in a lawn. We’ve had some folks who have taken some effort” to steal and deface signs, Merritt said. “It’s an incredibly divisive atmosphere that’s being generated.”
As for his and others’ observation that Trump signs appear to be target more frequently than others, Merritt chalked it up to that increasingly “divisive atmosphere” more so than the candidate.
“There is some of that coming from the candidates themselves, but I feel it more directly speaks to the strong divisions that are developing in this country and the unwillingness to allow opposing views,” Merritt said. “We’ve got to find a way to come back together … .”
While Merritt sees a rise in incidents involving political signs, Bob Shivley, chair of the Garfield County Democrats, said this election appears to be business as usual.
Some signs supporting John Acha, a Democrat running against Martin for county commissioner, have been stolen, as have others. But that is fairly standard in any election, Shivley said.
Glenwood Springs residents have written letters to the Post Independent about Clinton-Kaine signs being torn or stolen.
While there is some disagreement on the prevalence of incidents involving campaign signs this year, one of the more common themes is people do not appear to report the crime to law enforcement.
Sam Stewart, Rifle’s interim police chief, said the department has not received any reports of theft involving campaign signs.
Rather than report it, Nichols-Alvis said she simply went out and got more Trump signs. Willey did the same with the “Hillary for prison” signs.
“We’re seeing a lot of it and frankly it annoys everyone, but we’re not going to tie up police resources on it,” Merritt said.
However, Stewart said law enforcement would like to know about these incidents.
“That’s unfortunate because we do want to know what’s going on,” he said.
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