The Durham Herald-Sun finally ran its report on the Communist-hating sign maker and his opponents. It's a doozy. Once again, sign-stealing and hateful invective are wrong no matter what. This whole controversy is equal parts amusing and sad -- it almost seems like an article in The Onion parodying how extreme both sides of our political debate have become:
Fed up with people stealing roadside pro-Bush signs, a man erected new signs in Durham Monday saying communists stole the signs.
Steve Winter, an Apostolic pastor who lives in the Forest Hills neighborhood, had signs made that state, "THE BUSH '04 SIGN WAS STOLEN FROM HERE BY COMMUNISTS," and has put up about 10 signs in places where Bush signs disappeared, he said.
"A statement needed to be made ... that [stealing] was going on, rather than just replacing the stolen signs," said Winter, put the signs up with his family. "We were reporting a crime to the community."
He said he thought liberal Democrats were stealing the signs because they were desperate. Stealing political signs interferes with free speech and the electoral process and mirrors communist regimes of the past, he said.
"The liberal Democrat of today is no different than a communist ... they have no moral restraint, they are willing to break the law, intimidate people, willing to steal, and their viewpoints are a very left-leaning, socialist/communist agenda," he said.
But people who saw Winter's signs, like Kenny Mendez, 21, said they thought they were a joke.
"I think they're funny ... and the first time I saw one I nearly crashed my car," Mendez said.
Duke University graduate student Adam Hartstone-Rose, 23, said his wife called him after she saw the signs while driving.
"We wanted to know how they knew communists stole the signs, if they left a little red envelope or something," Hartstone-Rose said, joking.
The sign planted in an island of grass at the intersection of Chapel Hill Boulevard and University Drive has attracted a lot of attention according to a man who works at a nearby business.
"There must have been six people standing out there last night looking at it," says Mark Carder, who works at GTI Quality Auto.
Another sign posted after but near the "communists" sign on University states, "MY KERRY SIGN GOT RIPPED OFF RIGHT AFTER HE HUMILIATED BUSH IN THE FIRST DEBATE."
Carder, an undecided voter, laughed when he heard about the Kerry sign but took the other sign seriously. He didn't like it because he knew of Winter, who he said he had seen driving around the neighborhood in a car with a "BIBLE" license plate and thought he was a little extreme, he said.
Jeep Cross, owner of Carolina Banner, the company that made Winter's signs, said he was sympathetic with Winter's concerns about stealing signs.
"It's not funny. People have a message and want to have a way of getting that message out. I'd be upset too. He's spending his hard-earned money on that," Cross said, adding that each of the 25 signs Winter ordered from Carolina Banner cost about $5-$8.
Winter said several of his signs had already been stolen.
Melinda Ruley, who saw the signs while driving to a nearby gas station with her children, said she also understood Winter's actions, but didn't agree with the signs.
"I think it's right to protest -- I appreciate the sentiment of frustration -- I guess those signs just seem a little mean-spirited," she said.
Several local political candidates and political activists have also complained recently about having signs stolen.
"It's nothing new, but it's pretty frustrating when you think of the cost of these signs," said Becky Heron, a Democrat running for re-election as a county commissioner who said she wished signs were illegal because they were a pain to put up and take back down.
Political campaign volunteer and activist Charlotte Woods said she put a Bush/Cheney sign at the intersection of Cornwallis Road and University Drive every night, but it was always gone the next day.
"All the David Price and other Democrats' signs are left there undisturbed," she said. "I don't know who's doing it, but it's obviously not Republicans." Woods said she was so upset that she had printed decals for her signs asking people not to steal them.
"That's my property and my First Amendment rights! If I saw anybody getting ready to pull up Kerry/Edwards signs, I would be just as upset about it," she said.
Johnathan Paul, a spokesperson for Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price's campaign, said the campaign had been pleased with its sign distribution.
"We've heard a few reports of certain instances [of theft], but it hasn't been widely reported, at least not to us," Paul said.
But Winter said the only signs disappearing were pro-Republican.
"Anybody with eyes can see this city is pasted with Kerry signs and you see very few Bush signs because they've been stolen," he said. "There may be Republicans out there [stealing], but they're a rare exception. Your average Republican is going to be a law-abiding, moral, quite probably religious person. In the Democratic Party, someone being a moral, law-abiding and patriotic person is very rare."
The stealing of signs is demoralizing for Woods, who thinks it is just one more example of the extreme polarization of the country, she said.
"I'm saying what I want to say with my signs, and we are Americans first. After that we're supposed to be family, friends and neighbors, and then on further down the line we can be Democrats and Republicans," she said.