Arlington, VA

(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Arlington Democrats are decrying what the local party describes as a wave of vandalism of Democratic election signs.

Almost every election cycle in Arlington there are reports of small-scale vandalism and mischief involving campaign signs. Rarely do those reports, on message boards and community listservs, rise to the level of county-wide news.

But the Arlington County Democratic Committee says the latest vandalism spree, which happened just after the signs went up, is different.

“At least 30 election signs lawfully placed in public street medians by the Arlington County Democratic Committee encouraging citizens to vote in the Nov. 3 election and to support Democratic candidates, including presidential nominee Joe Biden and Virginia U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, were destroyed and vandalized overnight,” the party said in a press release Sunday. “Signs not specifically referencing the Democratic ticket were not disturbed.”

Each election season, the signs for candidates of all stripes pop up in roadway medians 31 days before the election, as permitted by local and state law. Democratic signs are particularly prolific, given the party’s electoral dominance in Arlington and the committee’s organizing prowess.

But this time around, Democrats say, the signs appear to be the target of a wider-scale vandalism effort. Signs “along Sycamore Street between Williamsburg Circle and Lee Highway, and on Little Falls Road at Lexington Street were either destroyed or vandalized” over the weekend, according to the press release.

The latter intersection is about a 15 minute walk from where a church’s Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized in June.

“We always get a certain amount of vandalism, but the vandals are off to a fast and aggressive start this year,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo wrote in an email to the Arlington County Police Department, reporting the crimes. At Little Falls Road, “it looks like someone actually drove onto the median in order to run over the signs.”

“Arlington Dems understand the police department has more urgent issues to address, but wanted to document the destruction,” the press release adds.

Arlington Republicans tell ARLnow that the Democrats tried to pressure them into condemning the vandalism, which the local GOP says is nothing new.

“This is every election cycle’s ‘dog bites man’ non-story,” Arlington GOP Chair Andrew Loposser said in an email to ARLnow last night. “Nearly every candidate’s signs — regardless of political party —  get vandalized at some point during the campaign, usually by bored high school kids.”

“Arlington Democrat campaign hacks attempted to pressure us into condemning this vandalism over the weekend,” Loposser continued. “Let me be clear: Vandalism of any kind is unacceptable — whether it’s Antifa and BLM rioters destroying small business storefronts or bored high school students ripping up political yard signs.”

The Arlington Democrats press release goes on to report that signs in the front yard of famed local civil rights figure Joan Trumpauer Mulholland were also vandalized. In a bout of rhetoric not typically seen in Arlington politics, at least among official Democratic communications, the release quotes Mulholland in equating supporters of President Trump to “Klan sympathizers.”

More from the press release:

The defacement follows the destruction of “Dump Trump” and pro-Biden signs on the lawn of civil rights icon Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, an Arlington native. […]

“I had to staple it back together,” Mulholland said of a “Dump Trump” sign on her lawn that was pulled off its stand in the yard of her Barcroft home and ripped apart. Another sign supporting the Biden-Kamala Harris Democratic ticket was damaged beyond repair, she added. Arlington Democrats learned of the destruction when Mulholland contrganization to request new signs.

Mulholland 79, is an Arlington native known for taking part in sit-ins, being the first white person to integrate the historically Black Tougaloo College in Jackson Miss., and to become the first white member of the historically black Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She was held on death row in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Penitentiary in 1961 for her civil rights activities. The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., includes a small exhibit about her.

“It was done in the dark of night,” Mulholland said. “History repeats itself. Black Lives Matters is a grander reincarnation of the civil rights movement and Trump supporters are just the new version of [Ku Klux] Klan sympathizers. “It’s just a shame that it’s coming from the top,” Mulholland added, referring to Trump’s racist rhetoric.

Arlington Democrats has replaced the signs and will continue to place them throughout Arlington. “We won’t be deterred by the illegal behavior of a few troublemakers,” Caiazzo said. “We call on Democratic voters in Arlington and across the country to stand up to these intimidation tactics by voting early in-person this week, wherever possible.”

Asked about the Klan comparison, Loposser said that conflicts with Trump’s record of economic growth for minority communities — before the pandemic, at least — and his better-than-usual-for-a-Republican support from Black men.

“The Arlington Democrats’ partisan name calling is further proof they’re scared of losing a key voter demographic they’ve taken for granted for decades,” he said.

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