COLORADO SPRINGS — With the November 3 election coming up, many voters are proudly displaying their campaign signs in their yards and businesses. But some Democrat and Republican candidates say their signs are being vandalized, stolen, tampered with, and even burned.
"We have lots of photos of signs that have been torn down, stomped, run over or people have pulled them out of the trash," said Jillian Freeland, Candidate for Colorado's Fifth Congressional District.
Over the past three weeks, Freeland says approximately 300 "Freeland for Congress" signs have been stolen or destroyed. There have also been attacks and theft perpetrated against Unity Party Congressional Candidate Rebecca Keltie, and Democratic candidates Stephanie Vigil, Ken Schauer, Randi McCallian, Electra Johnson, and John Foley.
"It's clear it's politically motivated because I've gotten photos of my sign and a fellow Democrat sign down and stomped on the ground with a Seamless Gutter sign standing happy and proud next to it," said Freeland. "Some signs disappear altogether, some damaged signs are left on the ground or in the street near where they had been placed, and some are found broken."
Freeland says the missing and damaged signs have cost her campaign roughly $1,200. With the COVID-19 pandemic, she says signs are critical in getting the word out.
"Campaigning in the middle of COVID-19 is hard enough. We are trying to put public safety ahead of the typical campaign model of go out, shake hands, and kiss babies. Signs are one of the limited things we can do. It's disappointing that people have decided to stomp all over the first amendment because this is what it comes down to. It's political speech," said Freeland.
Several people have filed police reports and Freeland says she's spoken with the Colorado Springs Police Department about the ongoing issue. The department told her it would take a lot of leg work to look into it.
"Unfortunately since its a $4 apiece issue, it's not a super high issue," said Freeland.
She says with the increase in homicide and domestic violence cases, she doesn't feel right reporting every single time a sign is vandalized. She says fellow Democrat Stephanie Vigil has received
the worst of it.
"I've had four locations approved for large format signs for my campaign, and so far every single one of them has been stolen, vandalized, or tampered with at least once," said Vigil. "The location just outside my home has been targeted the most. I've also found one of my smaller signs stabbed into the ground with a Lamborn sign, one of my other large signs was slashed almost to pieces, and another large sign at Constitution and Academy was graffiti'd."
While both candidates don't know who's behind it, they have reached out to the Republican Party to denounce the behavior but haven't received a response back.
"Both Mr. Liston and Mr. Pico have been called upon to denounce this behavior against a political rival and both have refused to respond. Either they're behind it, or they're okay with it," said Vigil.
She says it needs to be about the issues instead of petty drama surrounding yard signs.
"That's what's getting crushed in this more than anything. We should be able to have a healthy dialogue about what the people in the district want to be done on their behalf in the state capital," said Vigil. "
News 5 reached out to Andres Pico, Colorado Springs City Council member and Republican Candidate for House District 16, who says the Republican party had nothing to with the vandalization of the signs. He says this has been happening for years and they've also had signs stolen, damaged, and tampered with, even more than the Democrats.
"They wanted me to denounce my supporters for doing that, but I assure you my supporters aren't doing that," said Pico. "I drove by and saw the site and right next to hers, was one of my Republican colleague's large signs that had been similarly trashed. His have been trashed right from the start. He puts up big signs and they're destroyed within the first day or two."
Pico says it's criminal mischief, vandalism, unacceptable, and essentially suppression of free speech. He says some of his friends in the non-partisan race have also been targeted.
"I remember seeing hundreds of their yard signs that they had posted up along the streets cleared off," said Pico. "It's been going on for years and so many times that I don't even bother to call the police because there is nothing they can do about it. You don't know who did, you have no idea."
Pico says all of his colleagues and supporters have lost just as many signs as the Democrats. He doesn't think either party is behind it.
“Over the past three weeks approximately 300 Freeland for Congress signs have been stolen or destroyed. Display of political signs is a First Amendment-protected element of free speech, and the parties perpetrating this crime are disrespecting both the Bill of Rights and the candidates seeking to serve our community through elected office.
Placement of political signs on public property has a permitting process through local government. Freeland for Congress followed permitting instructions properly and the City of Colorado Springs confirmed that they had not removed any Freeland for Congress signs. The missing and damaged signs have cost the campaign approximately $1,200.
This vandalism is not only happening to Freeland for Congress signs; attacks and theft have been perpetrated against Unity Party Congressional Candidate Rebecca Keltie, and Democratic candidates Stephanie Vigil, Ken Schauer, Randi McCallian, Electra Johnson, and John Foley. These acts of theft and destruction seem to be politically motivated, because signs for Republicans candidates often replace the missing signs. Some signs disappear altogether, some damaged signs are left on the ground or in the street near where they had been placed, and some are found broken and lying next to (intact) non-political signs for services and events. Some perpetrators have even gone so far as to stab Congressman Lamborn’s sign through the sign of Democratic candidate Stephanie Vigil.
The Freeland for Congress campaign recognizes that this election is one of the most hotly contested races in history, but that does not excuse immoral and illegal behavior; it will not intimidate us or stop our progress. We are proud to have earned the votes of Coloradans across the political spectrum by running an honest and inclusive campaign. I urge Coloradans to stop destroying and stealing signs; your vote causes lasting change for the community, but committing a crime exposes you to potential criminal penalties and disrespects the freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment.