The Rev. Mary Zachary-Lang of Kennebunk stands beside her shed which bears some handwritten political signs, a Justice Now sign, and one that warns a sign thief or vandal that removal will result in a political donation to Joe Biden. Both Zachary-Lang and a neighbor on the same road have experienced repeated sign theft and vandalism, and their property spray painted. Now, instead of a Biden flag, the Langs have painted their support on their shed door. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK — The Rev. Mary Zachary-Lang and her husband, Dan Lang, like many, put up political signs during election season. This year, beside a Biden 2020 flag and an American flag, they put up a couple of Justice Now signs.

The signs and flags were placed on and around a shed at the end of their driveway near the road. On several occasions they have come out in the morning to find the Biden flag torn down, and the Justice Now signs destroyed.

They were replaced, and taken and vandalized again. At one point, Dan Lang had put a wood frame around the Biden flag, and the perpetrator cut it out with a knife.

Dan Lang then mounted a Biden flag up high on top of their street sign, so high that whoever cut it down would have to stand in the bed of a pick-up truck to do so, Zachary-Lang said.

On one occasion, the Justice Now signs were spray painted with orange hearts, and their shed was spray painted “Justice for Cannon H., ” a reference to Cannon Hinnant, a North Carolina 5-year-old, who was fatally shot in his driveway in August as he rode his bicycle. A neighbor has been arrested and charged with first degree murder in the Hinnant case.

The Langs reported the theft and vandalism incidents to police. To date, no one has been charged.

What disturbs Zachary- Lang, a spiritual director and retired interfaith minister, is the intensity of the theft and vandalism.

The couple had contemplated not putting up more signs, but they thought about it, and did.

“My husband said we have a right to have that sign up,” she said in an interview at her Kennebunk home last week.

Annie Watts, who lives on the same road, also had Justice Now signs. The first ones were stolen within a few weeks, so she got more. and they were stolen, and again replaced. And then she replaced them again. Her garage was spray painted, also with “Cannon H.” Then, every weekday for three to four weeks, starting around  5:30 a.m., Watts said, someone would drive by her property and lay on the horn, from the beginning of the property line all the way past it.

Watts, too, reported the incidents to police. Then she lay in wait for the horn blower one day, and managed to get a license plate number. She gave the number to police and the horn blowing ceased.

For the Langs, the incidents started after July 3, and wound down a few weeks ago. For Watts, the incidents took place largely in August and September.

Kennebunk Deputy Police Chief Michael Nugent said there have been four sign thefts reported to the agency within the last month.

“It’s happening, I think probably it largely goes unreported,” he said.

He said perpetrators could be charged with criminal mischief, if property was damaged, or with misdemeanor theft.

In general terms, Nugent said in the absence of a witness or video surveillance, perpetrators can extremely difficult to identify, and sometimes when there is. In one reported case, he said a surveillance photo was obtained and posted, but no one stepped forward to identify the individual.

In a separate incident, a couple of signs appeared high up on utility poles in Kennebunk a few weeks ago. The signs said “stop resisting arrest.”

Kennebunk Light and Power District General Manager Todd Shea said two signs were removed from a pole on Summer Street. And he noted placement of all signs on utility poles are illegal – considered “trespass on a utility pole,” according to Maine statutes, and punishable with a maximum fine of $100.

Zachary-Lang said she is not looking for revenge for what happened on her property – she just wants to be able to exercise her right to promote the candidate she prefers, and the causes she espouses.

She said during a winter trip to Florida, she and her husband were talking with friends in a public setting, and she realized when they talked about President Trump, they were doing so in whispers.

“I’ve never whispered about my political choices before,” she said. “This is what is feel like to be intimidated in my own country.”

Zachary- Lang is not whispering any more.

“I don’t want there to be any more enmity, but for us to be peacefully able to express ourselves,” she said.

Watts said the outpouring from the community was swift, and her garage was repainted in two days.

“I just wish people could just chill out on this whole thing and be kind and human, ” Watts said. “Justice for people of color doesn’t take justice away from you, and Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean police lives don’t matter. Let’s all just treat each other with mutual respect, whatever your political bent is.”

Zachary-Lang said if the perpetrator is caught, she would like a resolution that would make that individual think about what he/she had done, and some sort of community service. She’s thought about restorative justice, where she and her husband and the individual involved could talk about what had transpired.

“I don’t mind that he’s a Trump supporter,” said Lang of the sign perpetrator. ” I just don’t want him to take away my right to put up my signs for my candidate.”

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