A political campaign sign supporting the reelection of Pres. Trump outside Fort Pipestone has twice been vandalized with spray paint in recent weeks.
“My husband was angry, but it is what it is,” said Helena Carlson, who owns Fort Pipestone with her husband Bob.
She said this is the first year they’ve had political signs on the Fort Pipestone property. They have signs up for several candidates, but the Trump/Pence sign was the only one vandalized.
“I’m sure they’re doing it because they want it taken down,” Carlson said.
The Carlsons have not taken the sign down and she said they didn’t report the vandalism to law enforcement because they figured it would be difficult to prove who did it.
Pipestone County Sheriff Keith Vreeman said there had been two instances of people vandalizing political signs that he was aware of — one in Pipestone and one in Edgerton — and that each of those instances involved vandalism of multiple signs. He said his office found out who was responsible in those instances and turned the cases over to Pipestone County Attorney Damain Sandy. Vreeman said the vandalism did not seem targeted at one party or candidate and that he didn’t think it was politically motivated, but rather a case of kids misbehaving in a manner that is in fact a crime.
“It is a crime to vandalize anything,” Vreeman said.
Sandy would not comment on the specifics of the cases Vreeman mentioned, but said vandalizing political signs would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for an adult and probation, a fine or other penalties for a juvenile.
Vreeman said he does not recall political signs being vandalized in the past in Pipestone County, but that some of his deputies said they did. Sandy encouraged people to, “Please just let the signs be.”
Pipestone County is certainly not alone in having political signs vandalized this election season. There have been news reports of similar occurrences across the state and country.
Placement of signs
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) recently reminded those who place political campaign signs that state law prohibits the placement of political signs in highway rights of way, which includes all state, county, city and township roads and highways.
“Highway rights of way include driving lanes, inside and outside shoulders, ditches and sight corners at intersections,” according to the notice.
MnDOT crews are required to remove unlawfully placed signs, and when they do so “every effort is made to temporarily store the sign at one of its local maintenance truck stations until the owner retrieves it,” according to MnDOT.
Violation of the law pertaining to sign placement in rights of way is a misdemeanor, according to MnDOT, and civil penalties may also apply if the placement of a sign contributes to a crash that causes injury or damage to a vehicle.
Landowner consent is also required before signs can be placed on private property outside of the right of way, and signs and advertising materials are not allowed on public utility poles, trees and shrubs, according to MnDOT. For information about the proper placement of campaign signs or where to retrieve signs, contact the MnDOT at 320-231-5195 or go to mndot.gov/govrel/rw_signs.html.
Vreeman said there had been no issues with the placement of political signs in Pipestone County.