Why social media could be contributing to campaign sign vandalism in Calgary

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Why social media could be contributing to campaign sign vandalism in Calgary
WATCH: It’s only the second week of the municipal election campaign and election sign vandalism has started. Two of the main candidates for mayor report more sign damage than normal. Tony Tighe reports on how social media may be contributing to the problem – Sep 28, 2017

Just two weeks into Calgary’s 2017 municipal election campaign, election sign vandalism is already prevalent.

Two of the main candidates running for mayor are reporting more sign damage than normal, as well as damage to several large billboards in the city.

Campaign manager for mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi, Kate Easton, said the vandalism has been surprising and brazen.

“We’ve had quite a lot of lawn signs stolen and that’s really quite shocking,” Easton said. “People have been so bold as to go and take a sign off their neighbour’s lawn.”

Campaign signs for Naheed Nenshi are seen vandalized in Calgary,. Global News

The campaign has seen at least two large lawn signs vandalized, including two billboard lawn signs that were spray painted and smashed.

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Easton said the campaign hasn’t filed a complaint with police because “police have better things to do and it’s very difficult to catch anyone to find any evidence.”

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“What we do is get out there and try to repair or replace the sign as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: Will spelling and grammar mistakes hurt Bill Smith’s campaign?

Mayoral candidate Bill Smith’s campaign has also been the target of vandals early on.

Campaign communications director Rick Donkers told Global News more than 100 lawn signs have been taken from properties around the city, and several larger signs have also been damaged or destroyed.

“These are a considerable cost to a campaign when you consider the cost of the sign, the volunteer labour to construct the stands for them and the wood,” Donkers said about the larger signs. “This is well over $100 a sign.”

Donkers added that the smaller lawn signs cost the campaign between $4 and $6 a piece.

He said the vandalism has been targeted in some cases with Bill Smith signs being the only ones taken in some areas.

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Donkers said sign vandalism is part of the campaign process, so the campaign hasn’t reported it to police.

‘An extension of what we see online’

Political scientist Lori Williams said the nature of anonymity that comes with using social media could be driving some of the vandals to target campaign signs.

“It’s an extension of what we see online,” said Williams, who teaches at Mount Royal University.

“It’s an opportunity to anonymously attack someone you disagree with, someone you dislike, someone you have a bone to pick with.”

Williams said there was a time this kind of anonymous attack wouldn’t be acceptable and people wouldn’t even consider doing it.

A Druh Farrell campaign sign is seen vandalized. Global News

“With such a degree of anonymity and vitriol online, whatever sort of inhibitions or barriers might have existed historically seem to be broken down, making it a much easier thing for more people to think about doing it.”

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Calgary police said at this time, there have been no complaints of vandalism filed on behalf of any municipal election campaign.

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