Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Man vandalizes welcome sign

Staff Writer | May 4, 2021 1:00 AM

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A welcome banner put up by an informal local group working to promote unity and kindness in the community was slashed in half Monday evening.

The vandalism took place shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, Bonner County Human Rights Task Force officials said in a press release. A witness noticed a man stop by the side of the road, possibly in a tan SUV with Boundary County plates, and go up to the sign — which reads "We the People of Bonner County welcome all. Diversity. Unity. Kindness." After slashing the sign in half, the man got back into his vehicle and drove off.

The incident was reported to the Sandpoint Police Department.

Because the banner had the words “diversity, unity, kindness” as part of its message, its destruction had some in the task force and the group, The Bridgers, associating it as a possible hate crime.

“I see this as an example of pain in our community," Brenda Hammond, BCHRTF board chairwoman, said. "I also see this as an opportunity to have real conversations about racism, bias, threats and what it means to put love first in our community.”

If she could talk to the individual who vandalized the sign, Hammond said she would ask what part of the message made them so angry, to try and understand what caused them to act as they did.

"I would wish that I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the person and understand what it is that made them feel so strongly that they got out of their car and did that," she said. "Is it the welcome? Is it the words that are there: diversity, unity, kindness?"

Repairs to the welcome banner are taking place now. If the banner cannot be fixed, Hammond said the two groups will work to replace it.

“Acts like this prove we have a lot of work to do and our work is essential," task force board member Chuck Smith said.

A BCHRTF committee is pulling together a workshop to take place in the late summer to talk about creating the community residents want, Hammond said. Those interested in joining the committee can send an email to: bchrtaskforce@gmail.com.

Those with information about the vandalism are asked to contact the Sandpoint Police Department. The BCHRTF is also encouraging people to pick up a “Love, Lives, Here” yard sign to place in their yard and/or business. Signs are available at Outdoor Experience, Evans Brothers Coffee, and at the Sandpoint Farmers Market for donation.