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Sign thefts won’t stop residents from expressing their opinions

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Stacy Vogel
October 30, 2008

Meagan Matthews and Mary Burpee might be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they can agree on at least one thing: People have the right to express their political opinions.


Both Matthews, 24, Milton, and Burpee, 58, Elkhorn, are angry about repeated thefts of their campaign yard signs over the last few weeks.


“It’s frustrating, because they’re taking away my constitutional right (of expression),” Matthews said.


Local police departments said they aren’t seeing more sign thefts than normal for a presidential election, but several people have written to or called The Janesville Gazette about their signs disappearing.


Burpee was one of them.


She wrote a letter to the editor after she had a total of nine Barack Obama signs stolen on three occasions from her Elkhorn yard. Once, the signs were defaced and stolen the next day. Another time, they were replaced with John McCain signs.


“I don’t think it was kids, a prank, because they replaced them with McCain signs,” she said. “I don’t think kids walk around or drive around with McCain signs in their car.”


Burpee suspects the thieves are annoyed by a large wooden sign in her yard that says “Impeach Bush and Cheney.” She finally got tired of replacing the flimsy Obama signs, so she created and erected a sturdier wooden one.


“It’s unfortunate that’s what we’re forced to do,” she said. “We expect tolerance from other nations and other people, and we can’t even tolerate different viewpoints in our own communities.”


Matthews said she’s had eight to 10 McCain signs stolen from her Milton yard over the last two weeks. She replaces them only to have them disappear a couple of days later. McCain signs have disappeared from other yards in her neighborhood, too, she said.


“You’d think if (the thieves) believed in their candidate so much, they wouldn’t have to worry about taking away my message,” she said.


Both Burpee and Matthews said they would continue to express their views.


Matthews, who is finishing up a political science degree at UW-Whitewater, said she would “definitely” continue to put the signs out until the election.


“By this time, it’s principle, because they’re taking away my freedom of speech,” she said.



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