Theft of items from homes is illegal, disturbing, and a violation of property rights. Stealing flags and signs from front yards is a desecration of tradition and neighborliness.
While First Amendment rights are technically not violated when flags and signs with political messages are stolen, the theft of personal property in the form of a political statement is a symbolic act of speech repression. To steal a political sign from someone’s front yard or a flag from someone’s porch is equivalent to stealing an American flag. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a Black Lives Matter flag or a Trump campaign yard sign. Stealing a private citizen’s message from their private property says that the thief does not respect freedom of speech.
What do we do about this? Some of us are giving donations to causes, or purchasing flags or signs in response to racism or hate in Northfield. But anyone can respond without spending a lot of money. Here’s an alternative, cheap and easy way to show your support for your cause of choice:
Print a phrase or image on a regular sized piece of paper and tape it to the inside of your window. It might not seem like much of a statement, but it actually works.
One Northfield as a banner and call to action started exactly this way. An 8 1/2 x 11″ window sign helped initiate Northfield’s town and village merger. Now, my approach was a little excessive — I posted 6 signs in 3 windows — but it was a start. Brad Denny printed a banner and Jill Donahue let it hang on the facade of Northfield Pharmacy. They and many others deserve credit for getting public momentum going. But it started with a window sign. You can do that.
As for our local thieves — you never know who has hidden security cameras, so don’t press your luck. As for our local apologists — hey, you have your right to say what you think. Just remember, you are the sum of your words.