Police from Wiscasset to Farmington are investigating after at least a dozen roadside signs endorsing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and other Republican candidates were defaced with swastikas and what appeared to be a gang tag.

Collins Communications Director Lance Dutson said there are at least a dozen signs that were tagged over the weekend. Most of the targeted signs were in support of Collins, but signs for Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Bruce Poliquin and Republican Gov. Paul LePage also were damaged.

The signs were emblazoned with a swastika, which in some cases was backwards, facing left, which is also a Buddhist symbol. Other signs were tagged with the letters XZQ. It is unclear what the letters mean.

Dutson said signs were defaced in Dresden, Edgecomb, Farmingdale, Farmington, Manchester and Wiscasset. Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said he saw defaced signs in Rome, New Sharon and Farmington Falls over the weekend.

“As this gets more publicity we’re getting more reports back,” Dutson said. “We’ve been asking our supporters to take them down when they see them and send us photos.”

Politicians and activists said use of a swastika on a campaign sign is outrageous regardless of political persuasion. The symbol was used by many cultures for centuries, but once it was adopted by the Nazi party in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s became largely an anti-Semitic symbol.

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“The swastika is a universal symbol of hate representing fear and intimidation and has no place in any political campaign,” Robert O. Trestan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said in a news release. “The insertion of hatred into this political campaign is offensive to everyone and should be condemned by all.”

Dutson said the activity has no place in Maine politics.

“The use of this kind of hateful symbolism is reprehensible and abhorrent,” he said.

Wiscasset Police Chief Troy Cline said it appears the signs in that area were damaged Sunday night. He said officers documented one damaged sign in Wiscasset, but others in the area were already removed when police arrived to investigate. One of the defaced signs in Dresden was in support of LePage.

“I was told there were many more on Route 27,” Cline said.

State law prohibits removing or damaging political signs. A violation is a civil penalty punishable by a $250 fine. But Cline said the mark of the swastika could elevate the act to a hate crime.

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“We’ve already made contact with the attorney general’s office,” Cline said. “They’re going to be looking into it.”

Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills, said in an email that the AG’s office “will work with the local police department on the matter.”

Nichols said he noticed damage to Collins signs Sunday morning during a bicycle ride through Rome and New Sharon. Monday morning he saw Collins and Poliquin signs tagged on routes 41 and 42 in Farmington Falls.

None of the signs had swastikas. All were emblazoned with XZQ.

Nichols said Republican signs were stolen last week from the front of a New Vineyard home.

“Whether or not it’s related I don’t know,” Nichols said.

He said most of the signs have been taken down.

Nichols said signs are often damaged or stolen during the campaign season. He said some of his signs were stolen when he ran for sheriff.

“Unfortunately, some people have the proclivity to do that,” Nichols said. “It’s unfortunate.”


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