Friday, October 10th, 2008
By William Kincaid
Obama signs vandalized
County Democratic party chairman says acts racially motivated
  A recent spur of vandalism has left a handful of Barack Obama election signs in Celina spray-painted and burned - a crime Mercer County Democratic Party Chairman Bill Sell says is singular and racially motivated.
Sell said he knows of 12 incidents where Obama signs were covered in purple spray paint, with two signs also burned. The incidents occurred last weekend, he said.
So far, the Celina Police Department has four reports of vandalized Obama election signs, Sergeant Jim Stelzer said.
"I don't know that we've had signs taken down," he added.
When asked if such incidents happen every election season, Stelzer said they do not.
"My guess is it's a few kids," Stelzer said, adding that no arrests have been made.
Sell pointed out that none of his election signs for various Democratic candidates were destroyed except his Obama sign, prompting him to believe it was racially motivated. Sell said his John Kerry signs were left alone in 2004.
"They're not targeting Democrats," he said, adding he feels the incidents were intended to intimidate and make a statement.
Sell said one 75-year-old widow removed her sign, fearing her house would be spray-painted as well.
He suggested that local church leaders remind its members that the political process should be peaceful.
"We live in a Christian community. We have Christian values," Sell said.
Mercer County Chief Deputy Gery Thobe said the sheriff's department has not received complaints about election signs.
"I have not seen a single report on that," he said.
However, Thobe said election signs often are taken by the Ohio Department of Transportation for being in the state's right-of-way, such as a ditch.
Auglaize County Sheriff Allen Solomon said his department usually receives a few calls about missing signs each election season.
But not this year.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said anyone caught stealing or vandalizing a sign could face charges of theft, criminal mischief, criminal damaging and criminal trespassing. An election sign in somebody's front yard is no different than a sign in front of a business, he said.
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