Al Weed Sign Theft Is Widespread
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Henry B. Cannon
888-688-2220 toll free
Congressional Candidate Al Weed has erected 142 large 4 foot by 8 foot highway signs in highly trafficked spots across the 5th Congressional District to increase his name recognition, and 29 of the signs, or roughly 1 of every 5 signs, have been stolen in recent days, with more thefts reported daily.
In one case, in the city of Charlottesville, Betty Gallagher erected a large sign after having previously lost several smaller Weed yard signs to thieves. In hopes of preventing the theft of the large sign, she rigged up a homemade alarm system consisting of a 150-foot wire strung from the sign to some bells on a chair just outside her bedroom window, so that movement of the sign would ring the bells. The system worked as intended, and at 4:00 am Thursday morning, Mrs. Gallagher was awakened as the sign was being stolen. However, by the time she had dressed and made her way out to her yard, the thief had already made off with the sign.
"It's too bad that people have to resort to this kind of thing. I think it is someone who was politically motivated, because we have caught college students at 11:30 or 12:00 at night, but this sign was stolen at 4:00 am, which implies someone was more motivated, to stay up that late. There is a large Bush sign only 2 blocks away, and it is still standing, so it’s not someone who just doesn’t like big signs," said Mrs. Gallagher.
In Afton an Al Weed supporter was able to catch the license plate of a car pulling away with the large sign from her yard. The campaign is waiting to hear from the local police about this case and possible prosecution options.
In a bizarre case at Brook Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, a large sign was stolen sometime Thursday night and a deer carcass was thrown over a fence into the yard where the sign had been removed, as if to send a message of intimidation.
Also on Thursday night, in rural Franklin County theives were so brazen that they drove right into the large front yard of Joe Stanley, grabbed his sign, and then sped away, leaving large tire ruts in the yard.
In downtown Appomattox last week, a large sign was stolen off the side of the Democratic Headquarters on Church Street.
The signs are large enough that stealing them is a significant undertaking, and valuable enough that the thefts amount to serious larceny. The 4 foot by 8 foot corrugated plastic signs were originally ordered in a large shipment at a cost of $25 per sign. Add to that $9 for the 2 steel signposts that support the sign, and the salaries of 2 campaign workers spending 1 hour transporting and erecting the sign, and the original value of the erected sign is roughly $50. However, when ordering fewer than 50 signs (to replace the stolen signs) the base price of each sign is about $50, and $25 more to erect it, making the replacement cost $75 per sign. That means the Weed campaign has lost over $2100 worth of large signs.
The Weed campaign, starting with the very first theft, has asked all property owners to report these thefts to their local police.
Weed campaign Field Director Trevor Cox noted, "When you consider the cumulative value of all these large signs, it's like someone stole one of our cars parked outside the office."
The areas hardest hit by the sign thefts are Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Franklin County, Campbell County, Henry County and Martinsville, and Nelson County, where, all together, 22 out of 54—or well over a third—of erected signs were stolen.
In both the City of Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County, more than half of all erected signs (6 out of 10) have been stolen. Campaign workers acknowledge that the high theft rate may be attributed to college students stealing the signs because of the connotations of ‘Weed’.
However, college students or others drawn to the connotations of ‘Weed’ probably don’t account for all the sign thefts across the district. Presumably, some signs have been stolen by Republicans or Virgil Goode supporters.
"In the southwestern part of the district (Franklin and Henry Counties), Goode supporters are understandably worried about their candidate's chances this year, but it’s sad that stealing signs and limiting a property owner’s constitutional right of free speech is their way of dealing with it," said Cox.
The signs are all positioned for maximum visibility along frequently-traveled roads, and only one sign theft has been witnessed during daylight hours, so Cox presumes that most thefts have occurred in the late night hours when traffic is lightest.
"The theft of one out of every five Weed signs across the district, including several on the same night in the same area, implies that at least some of the thefts may be systematic and coordinated rather than just a coincidence of unrelated thefts, according to Cox.
"When half or one-third of all our signs are stolen, that constitutes a serious assault on our right to free speech. People tend to dismiss sign stealing as an inevitable part of campaign season, but this is well beyond a marginal impact on our right to erect signs on private property. I hope people understand that stealing a sign has the same effect on free speech as censoring an editorial writer or refusing to run a campaign ad on television," said Press Secretary Henry Cannon.
Thieves have also stolen over 300 of the smaller Weed yard signs from across the District, according to Cox.
"In the end," concluded Cox, "Republicans have blocked healthcare for all Americans; given billions in tax giveaways to big polluters, huge corporations and the super wealthy; and mortgaged our future with astronomical budget deficits. In the grand scheme of things, the theft of a few dozen signs—while illegal and ugly—pales in comparison."
Al Weed, a Nelson County farmer and retired U.S. Army Special Forces Command Sergeant Major, secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for Virginia’s 5th District congressional race on May 8. Born in 1942, Al entered Yale University on a Naval ROTC scholarship in 1960. He left Yale in 1962 to enlist in the U.S. Army and soon joined the Green Berets and served in Vietnam. In 1966, Al returned to the United States, married his wife Emily, became a U.S. Army reservist, and re-entered Yale University. Al earned his BA with honors in 1968 and went on to earn a Master of Public Affairs in 1970 at Princeton University. With his degrees completed, Al went to work for the World Bank, then an international investment company, before moving with his wife and two small children to a farm in Nelson County in 1973. Al was called to active duty once again in 1995, serving as a Special Forces Command Sergeant Major for our country’s mission in Bosnia. Today, Al continues to live and work on his farm in Nelson County with his wife. His son is a surgeon assigned to Ft. Eustis, and his daughter is a teacher at a public middle school.
Authorized and paid for by Al Weed 2004
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