NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – School Committeeman John Oliveira says he has built an electric fence around his Trump political lawn sign to keep people away after repeated thefts.
Oliveira, 54, admits the electrified fence looks terrible and said his neighbors will probably complain, but he did it to protect his property in the city’s West End from further thefts.
“It hasn’t been touched in two weeks since the electric fence went up,” he said.
The fence is about three feet high in a triangular shape with yellow and black safety wire and three small signs that say, “Caution Electric Fence,” in English, Spanish and French, he said. It is solar powered and has a current going through it.
“I’m defending my property and my right to free speech,” he said. “This is about my right to free speech, period.”
There is also a “Vote New Bedford” sign near the Trump sign, but it is not within the electrified area, he said.
The thefts are just “not right,” he said. Oliveira, a Trump supporter and a former longtime Democrat who recently changed his party affiliation to Republican, said he would not go around and steal political signs for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president.
“It’s about mutual respect. It’s not about taking people’s signs because you don’t agree with what they have to say.”
Oliveira said he feels the thefts are directed against Trump and not him. “It’s not vandalism because of the number of times it has happened,” he said.
A controversial figure on the School Committee, Oliveira has on occasion swore and behaved rudely towards colleagues during public School Committee meetings.
He said he has lost about $100 because of the thefts.
Oliveira said he started displaying the Trump sign on his lawn around the end of May and about two months later they began to disappear. The thieves stole them in broad daylight. He said they were on his lawn in the mornings when he left and when he returned in the afternoon they were gone.
The sign has been stolen four times since the end of July, he said.
The last straw, sort of speak, was about two weeks ago when he went to Maine for a week and he saw the sign was gone when he returned home, he said. That was when he decided that he was going to erect an electric fence.
He said he has filed two complaints with New Bedford police and officers have come to his home to take reports.
New Bedford police didn’t respond to emails or calls about Oliveira’s reports of vandalism to his political signs.
Follow Curt Brown on Twitter: @curtbrown_sct.
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