Liberal candidate for New Brunswick Southwest Karen Ludwig has had some of her campaign signs spray painted with swastikas and more recently vandals have begun removing her face from her signs.
Organizer Joy Benson Green says she was upset by the vandalism but felt compelled to act after a conversation with her children.
“But it was actually my kids that questioned it and said ‘Mom, why is her face punched out?’ And when they said that, it did something to me on the inside and so I asked them, ‘What do you think it means that her face is punched out?’ and my seven year old said, ‘I think it means they want to silence her.’
“When he said that, I thought ‘I can’t stay silent in this’.”
Similar instances of vandalism – where the face of the candidate is punched out of the sign – have occurred across the country, mostly to female candidates. Benson Green is calling the vandalism and act of misogyny.
“Because it is defacing her face, it’s punching out her mouth, her throat, her face, it changes the feel of it for us and many women in our community and across the country,” she said.
Co-organizer Hannah Fitch Bernard said she had a visceral reaction to the vandalism.
“At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I felt violated and I also felt ashamed. This doesn’t need to happen here. There’s no need for this here,” she said.
“They’re cutting their faces out. You can’t ignore that and you can’t say that’s a coincidence that they’re all women. It feels very targeted to me and the message it sends me as a woman is, you better watch yourself and don’t use your voice.”
WATCH: Election signs vandalized in Okanagan
Benson Green and Fitch Bernard decided to hold an event where people could tape photos of themselves on one of the damaged signs, in what they are calling an act of love to try and erase the hateful act of vandalism.
“It doesn’t just exist here. I think it’s rampant and I think the way to counter it is through positivity and love and talking about issues. No committing violence against another person.”
The two women are not affiliated with the Ludwig campaign and said that the issue cuts across party lines. Both Ludwig and the Conservative candidate for the riding, John Williamson, put aside their political differences and attended the event.
“It’s harmful, it’s hateful, and it really has no place in our democratic system,” Williamson said of the vandalism.
Ludwig said she was encouraged to see people speaking out.
“I have a daughter, I have a granddaughter, I have a grandson, I have a son, this is their future and that’s not what I want for them. I want it to be inclusive and respectful and to see more diversity in parliament,” she said.
Holly Johnson, who provided PR for the event free of charge, said she wanted to get involved as soon as she heard what Benson Green and Fitch Bernard were trying to do.
“When I learned about the initiative of Hannah and Joy I was completely overwhelmed and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” she said.
“It is very brave and courageous of them to do this and to bring people together because it’s not just about women, it’s not just about men, it’s about everyone and it’s so important that we come together and work together and do the right thing to raise the bar.”
Johnson agreed that the vandalism appears to be targeted and said it’s on another level than the minor scrawls and graffiti often seen on campaign signs.
“This is someone’s face being attacked … this just takes things to a completely different level and it was frankly pretty scary.”
Former St. Stephen councillor Abby Pond said these types of things create added barriers for women who may be thinking about entering politics.
“If I’m thinking about getting into politics and I’m seeing things like this it’s going to make me think twice because I don’t want violence to be inflicted on my family because I’m choosing to make a stand and that’s wrong,” she said.
“Anyone should be able to participate in our democracy.”
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