East Texans: theft and defaced political signs infringing right - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

East Texans: theft and defaced political signs infringing right to freedom of speech

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

Several East Texans reported thefts that they say are an infringement on their freedom of speech. 

Residents along South College Avenue in Tyler reported defaced and stolen campaign signs for Governor Mitt Romney.

The Smith County Republican headquarters said they have sold about 2,000 of the Romney/Ryan campaign signs; signs several East Texans said they replaced.

"We had our signs, our Romney signs stolen; they were actually removed. At the time I thought, 'it's kids' and I let it go at that," said Linda Highley. 

Her neighbor's signs were stolen as well. When he replaced them, they did not stay up for long.

"We came back out and they've been torn down. It just seems to be very, very sad that it comes down to this repeatedly," said George Mcneil. 

Highley said she has been a victim of robberies in the past; it is a feeling that came back when she heard someone ringing her doorbell at 4 a.m. and taking off with a sign she paid for.

"While this is nothing compared to the way I felt those other times, when they actually came into my home, it reminded me that it demonstrates a lack of respect. This is a small thing, but the issue of respect for others is not such a small thing," Highley explained. 

The republican party said they have had multiple reports of people targeting this specific republican campaign sign.

"And I'm sorry about that. That's always a disappointment to make an effort to come in and get a sign and then have someone remove it from your yard," said Jane Winn, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Smith County Republican Headquarters. 

"It's an infringement on our right to free speech. We have an important election coming up this year and if you disagree with my choice, it's your place to go to the polls and do something about it," Highley said. 

Highley and her neighbor have both filed police reports. Tyler Police said if you get caught vandalizing a sign, you could be charged with criminal mischief. And if you get caught stealing one? Well, you could end up paying up to $500 in fines.

With the party completely sold out of signs, neighbors have just one message for whoever is responsible for the vandalism and theft.

"Just stay off of our property unless you're invited. And just please allow us to express our own personal political conviction as they are, but in such a destroying destructing way," Mcneil said.

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