Jeff Council couldn’t grease the path for his candidate’s ride to the White House, but he wound up having to grease the signs showing his support after vandals repeatedly destroyed them.
Council, of Cabin John, filed a report with the Montgomery County police Nov. 7 alleging repeated acts of vandalism against at least 47 signs promoting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Council posted the signs Oct. 6 in what he called a public strip of grass separating his co-op community, Cabin John Gardens, and MacArthur Boulevard in compliance with local board of elections regulations, he said.
Council did admit that several of his neighbors have told him in the past that, due to the existence of an aqueduct underneath portions of MacArthur Boulevard, the strip of land where he placed his signs is technically federal property, where election signs are not permitted under law. Council has dismissed these claims, arguing that other signs have been posted in the strip and the vandalism of his signs is a violation of his freedom of speech.
“This is a First Amendment rights issue,” Council said.
Within hours, the first of the signs began disappearing, and, when Council took steps to prevent the thefts, the alleged vandalism began, he said.
“After they pulled out the first five or seven signs, I hammered wood in the ground next to it and then I put duct tape around the wood and the wire from the sign so they couldn’t pull them out anymore,” he said, adding that he also coated the signs with Vaseline and automobile grease to further deter thieves.
“So then they started kicking them and, when they realized there was grease on them, hitting them with tree branches and shredding them up,” Council said.
Taking matters a step further, Council bought a motion-triggered camera typically used by deer hunters and mounted it in some nearby brush, capturing images of several people using large tree branches to poke at the signs and cover them up.
Angela Cruz, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman, confirmed that a police report was made Wednesday when an officer met with a resident in the Cabin John Garden community.
“They cleared it as a vandalism call and they did write a report,” Cruz said, confirming that Council’s case number was assigned to the incident.
Council is still not positive what will come of his case, but he hopes his story will prevent others from having to go through a similar ordeal during future elections.
“Putting signs up without a sign permit is permissible from Oct. 6 through Election Day,” he said, citing state Board of Elections regulations.