Political signs get snatched near campus

By , Reporter  |  Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:45 PM

Political signs have disappeared or been damaged in the area surrounding St. Thomas in the past month, and neighbors have been placing blame on some St. Thomas students.

This is not a new phenomenon for university relations. Neighborhood Liaison John Hershey said he has already received 10 complaints in October accusing students of stealing or damaging political signs. Hershey said this year, the “Vote No” signs are the most widely targeted.

“They’ve disappeared in mass up by the state fairgrounds. They’ve disappeared on my block five blocks from campus,” Hershey said. “A couple weeks ago over in Minneapolis, somebody is putting chainsaws through the middle of them, so it’s not just around here.”

<p>A "Vote No" sign lies torn in half in a lawn close to Cretin Avenue in St. Paul, Minn. St. Thomas Neighborhood Liason said neighbors have been placing blame on St. Thomas students. (Laura Landvik/TommieMedia.com)</p>

A "Vote No" sign lies torn in half in a lawn close to Cretin Avenue in St. Paul, Minn. St. Thomas Neighborhood Liason said neighbors have been placing blame on St. Thomas students. (Laura Landvik/TommieMedia.com)

St. Paul resident Katherine Werner lives four blocks down Cretin Avenue from St. Thomas’ South Campus. Werner placed a complaint Oct. 22 to Hershey about her signs being damaged, calling the situation “frightening.”

“This damage to my personal property in the middle of the night was the first time I’ve had some serious vandalism,” Werner said. “This doesn’t compare to loud student parties or beer bottles in my yard the next morning.”

Around 2 a.m., Oct. 21, Werner reported a pounding noise coming from outside her window. That morning, she discovered her President Obama sign had been knocked over. Underneath the sign were six other smaller political signs, all attached with a metal pole on each end.

“The thought that someone would trespass, walk on somebody’s property to violate their civil right to free speech is astounding for anyone to do,” Hershey said.

Students have been caught committing similar crimes already this year. Hershey said some students have been identified and reprimanded for stealing political signs.

To Hershey, the neighborhood residents pointing blame at students is not unexpected.

“(St. Thomas students) are an easy target. We’re a sitting duck,” Hershey said. “It’s easy to point the finger of blame, and we don’t know for sure. There’s a reasonable chance.”

Sophomore John Kumerow said the university should cut the students some slack.

“It’s obviously not serious if one person steals it as just sort of a joke,” Kumerow said. “But if they find people continuing to steal and other things like that, it should get to be serious to a certain extent.”

Junior Mylissa Bringgold said she does not believe this crime should be taken very seriously.

“It’s a sign in a front yard. I think there are more important things to worry about like bikes getting stolen and drunk kids walking around campus and harassing other kids,” Bringgold said. “I don’t think it’s an issue at all.”

Neighborhood relations continue to be a struggle for Hershey in wake of issues like this.

“Even if we’re innocent, we take a couple of steps back because there’s somebody else out there who believes that our students are doing something wrong,” Hershey said.

Werner explained that even though she is upset with the few students she believed committed this crime, she understands it is not all of St. Thomas that damaged her signs.

“Clearly this is not every St. Thomas student doing this sort of thing,” Werner said. “Like most acts of violence, meanness, disrespect and illegal activity, it’s usually done by a select few who think they can get away with it who are arrogant enough to feel that that’s their duty.”

Laura Landvik can be reached at land7854@stthomas.edu.

This item was posted in More News, News and has 22 comments so far.


  1. tj murphy
    Oct. 30, 2012 12:25 PM

    Sounds like Neighbors crying wolf one more time. Lets blame St. Thomas for anything and everything. Most likely it’s other neighbors that don’t like the signs on front lawns. Mr. Hershey just say no and send them down the highway.

  2. Katherine Werner
    Oct. 31, 2012 10:19 AM

    TommieMedia asked me to be interviewed for this story and I eagerly agreed believing that by sharing the story of my political yard signs being destroyed would inspire some dialogue at UST about freedom of speech, that something positive might come from this rash of vandalism. That probably won’t happen because this story is misleading, one-sided and woefully under reported missing facts, photos and quotes provided by me + additional quotes from Hershey, all supporting the “theory” that UST students are the most likely culprits in this epidemic. Even the St. Paul Police officer who filed my report believed my signs (a 2×8 Obama sign with 7 smaller signs attached to it all reinforced with t-bar steel posts and wire – not the wimpy wire sign shown in the article) were probably damaged by UST students.

    As I said and was quoted in this piece, “…this is not every St. Thomas student doing this sort of thing. Like most acts of violence, meanness, disrespect and illegal activity, it’s usually done by a select few who think they can get away with it who are arrogant enough to feel that that’s their duty.” (Not my edit.) Please know, Tommies, that those few are responsible for students’ bad reputation in this neighborhood. Wolf!

  3. Carolyn Edwards
    Oct. 31, 2012 11:06 AM

    I have paid for 2 signs that have been vandalized, then stolen. It is just a sign, but they were on my property. Just like the Snoopy in front of the child care center, it too was vandalized several times. Vandalizing anyone else’s property is a crime and it’s wrong.

  4. tj murphy
    Oct. 31, 2012 3:14 PM

    Carolyn, You paid for a current political sign? The main point is that St. Thomas students were blamed, with no proof, for vandalizing said signs. Could be your non-UST neighbors should be in your dog house. Hang on Snoopy…….. hang on.

  5. Amanda Lundeen
    Nov. 1, 2012 10:24 AM

    What is the evidence that UST students were responsible for this vandalism? I’m not suggesting that this is a completely unprompted accusation. I’m just curious.

  6. Katherine Werner
    Nov. 1, 2012 1:09 PM

    TJ Murphy, just so you, and others, know, it is a long-held common practice for organizations and political candidates to charge $10-20 for their signs to help off set the costs of making them. Other groups who use yard signs to promote events such as a church festival or farmer’s market will ask for a donation towards the sign’s cost.

    60% of the political signs placed on private property in neighborhoods surrounding St. Thomas have been either stolen or destroyed, all needing to be replaced at considerable time and cost. Yep, 60%!

  7. Katherine Werner
    Nov. 1, 2012 2:03 PM

    Amanda, I encourage you to ask that question of Laura Landvik who wrote the article, and John Hershey. who gets complaints from the neighborhood people. There is more to this article than was published.

  8. Steven Johnson
    Nov. 1, 2012 3:32 PM

    PSSSH! considerable time and cost. I laugh at you. Yeah, Im sure it takes you a considerable amount of time to put your $10.00 sign in the ground.  I cant imagine what you could have done with that time or that money? 

  9. Carolyn Edwards
    Nov. 1, 2012 3:39 PM

    TJ, yes I did. I also happen to have 1 neighbor that is not a student rental. I am positive they did not take my sign.
    TJ, are you a student at UST?

  10. Amanda Lundeen
    Nov. 1, 2012 5:12 PM

    Actually, I think I would rather hear it from you, Katherine, as they didn’t feel the need to include it in the article.

    Also, where did you get the statistic about the percentage of vandalized signs around St. Thomas? I would like to look into that. 

  11. Taylor Zimmerman
    Nov. 1, 2012 7:00 PM

    Katherine, you agreed to an interview, and your view on the subject was well represented in the article. Mr. Hershey was also quoted to agree with you that it was likely a UST student. However, there are two sides to every story, so of course a professional journalist will include the other side. Accusing Ms. Landvik of being one sided because she covered the entire scope of the issue is extremely bigoted, unnecessary, and, quite frankly, mean. The purpose of journalism is to raise awareness over issues of high impact and present both sides in an unbiased way. Blaming a particular group with insubstantial evidence is the job of the police, and in fact it would be highly inappropriate of Ms. Landvik to include that sort of bias.

  12. Katherine Werner
    Nov. 2, 2012 9:27 AM


  13. Steven Johnson
    Nov. 2, 2012 11:23 AM

    Just talked to John, Katherine. He says everything in the article is true! 

  14. Katherine Werner
    Nov. 2, 2012 3:16 PM

    Steven, can you prove you talked with John and that he said that?
    And, PSSSH – is that a technical term?

    I do not disagree that everything in the article is true. My claim is the story is under reported and incomplete because Laura excluded facts, additional quotes from both John and me, and her numerous photographs of my damaged property. Sure that’s her prerogative, but the result she compiled an under reported, incomplete story about “snatched signs” resulting in a missed opportunity for a thoughtful conversation about FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

    You all here have proven in this less than civil conversation, my point that “Like most acts of violence, meanness, disrespect and illegal activity, it’s usually done by a select few who think they can get away with it who are arrogant enough to feel that that’s their duty.”

  15. tj murphy
    Nov. 2, 2012 11:46 PM

    Some of the comments here seem like TV political ads. Consider; ” Just like Snoopy, in front on the child care center” and ” 60% of political signs placed……………..surrounding St. Thomas……………damaged or stolen”. Wow. Let me quote George Bernard Shaw, ” That older and greater church to which I belong: the church where the oftener you laugh the better, because by laughter only can you destroy evil without malice, and affirm go0od fellowship without mawkishness”. Thanks for the sunshine brought to the St. Thomas community.

  16. John Grupa
    Nov. 3, 2012 10:01 AM

    PSSSSH, katherine you need to take a chill-pill!  

    I can tell you one thing, Im glad I don’t live next to this gal…  

  17. Carolyn Edwards
    Nov. 5, 2012 11:49 AM

    On Sept. 29 at 6:22 p.m., Public Safety and the St. Paul Police Department responded to suspicious activity on the 2100 block of Selby Avenue. Four individuals observed taking signs from yards fled upon being approached by officers, two were later identified by SPPD as underage St. Thomas students and admitted to consuming alcohol.
    On Oct. 13 at 1:48 a.m., Public Safety and the St. Paul Police Department responded to the 1900 block of Lincoln Avenue for a neighbor complaint. An underage intoxicated St. Thomas student, reported taking signs from yards, was cited for underage consumption and transported to Detox by SPPD.

  18. Steven Johnson
    Nov. 5, 2012 4:26 PM

    1912 hours 
    Public Safety documented a neighbor complaint on an unknown block of Portland Avenue.  A UST neighbor’s report of unidentified persons taking signs from yards could not be verified upon officer’s check of the area. 

  19. Katherine Werner
    Nov. 11, 2012 11:10 PM

    The good news: Most of you will be gone for the next national election.
    The bad news: You will be replaced by other Tommies.

  20. Katherine Werner
    Nov. 11, 2012 11:20 PM

    Right, John? Ah, but that’s what you call “job security.”

  21. tj murphy
    Nov. 12, 2012 4:33 PM

    Frustrated, Hate can make you mean, irritable and old before your time. John II,II would be a nice read about darkness. Go Tommies.

  22. Steven Johnson
    Nov. 13, 2012 2:05 PM

    Katherine, what were your true intentions when agreeing to be interviewed by TM? I find it hard to believe (given your cynical comments written above) that you only wanted to “spark” a discussion about freedom of speech.   

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