Photo by Allison Gillman '23
The Westport Police Department (WPD) issued a press release Sept. 21, after the removal of political signs around town elicited complaints from multiple residents.
With the political polarization elections often foster, the removal, disappearance and theft of political signs expressing support for candidates come as no shock to the WPD.
“[I]n [..] these types of incidents, we always prefer to make enforcement action a last resort,” Lieutenant Anthony Prezioso of the WPD said. “As with many of the other situations that we encounter in our work, this is one no different in that each incident must be evaluated on a case by case basis.”
Raia Morgan ’23 expressed disapproval over the removal of these signs, saying it obstructs community growth and silences partisan voices.
“I believe it is important to view people’s opinions that may differ from mine,” Morgan said. “[Differing opinions] can be a good starting point for a conversation that can be beneficial for both sides. By stealing these signs, it’s taking away that introduction to a civil conversation that, hopefully, leads to mutual understanding and growth.”
Many of the missing signs expressed ordinary presidential endorsements for the Biden/Harris and Trump/Pence campaigns.
“Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property,” the press release said.
The Westport community’s experiences with these disappearances are not isolated. The Washington Post reported that this issue has taken root in other places around the country, such as Pennsylvania and a handful of other states.
“[W]ith many people stuck at home amid a historic pandemic,” The Post said, “yard signs have become a stand-in for other shows of support for a candidate, such as attending a rally or marching in a parade. When that symbol vanishes, it can feel like a violation.”
According to Lieutenant Prezioso, the police department usually observes the posting of signs, and concurrently, reports of an increasing number of cases of missing signs, as election day gets closer.
“It’s difficult to estimate, but from what I have seen so far, I would say that we are pretty much on par with prior elections at this point in time,” he said. “That, however, could always change as Nov. 3 approaches, but that is why we felt it was so critical to communicate the information in that press release when we did.”