D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine issued a legal advisory statement on Thursday declaring that destroying election campaign signs is a violation of D.C. law and targeting campaign signs for discriminatory reasons could be an additional violation of the city’s hate crimes law.
Racine’s advisory statement comes after reports have surfaced from at least four LGBTQ candidates for seats on D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions that their signs were being targeted for damage or being pulled down while nearby signs for other candidates were left alone.
“According to reporting by the Washington Blade, election signs of three Advisory Neighborhood Commission [candidates] from the LGBTQ+ community were destroyed in recent weeks,” a statement from the Attorney General’s office accompanying Racine’s advisory says. “The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) also received complaints from residents that signs have been destroyed,” the statement says.
“Under District law, individuals who have been found guilty of intentionally removing, defacing, damaging, or destroying a lawfully placed election sign could face a fine of up to $100,” the statement continues. “When sign removal or destruction is found to be discriminatory, the perpetrator could face heightened civil penalties,” it says.
“Intentionally destroying property, such as election signs, to target members of the LGBTQ+ community is unacceptable and unlawful in the District,” Racine said in his own statement. “Today’s advisory warns District residents that these acts could result in serious legal consequences,” he said. “I urge anyone who witnesses unlawful property destruction to report it to MPD’s non-emergency line (311),” he said in referring to the D.C. police department.
The Blade reported last week that gay Advisory Neighborhood Commission candidate Kyle Mulhall, who is running for a seat in ANC district 2B09 in the Dupont Circle area, has had his campaign signs pulled down and ripped in half repeatedly, often a day or two after he replaces them.
LGBTQ candidates Rehana Mohammed and Alexandra Bailey, who are running for ANC seats in nearby Logan Circle area districts 2F07 and 2F08, told the Blade that unidentified perpetrators have repeatedly damaged or attempted to tear down their campaign signs.
Earlier this week, lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford, who is running for a seat in ANC 8A06 in Anacostia, said she too has had her campaign signs damaged or pulled down.
“The District’s bias-related crime law prohibits, among other things, injury to property based on a range of characteristics of the victim of the offense, including race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or [gender] expression, disability, and other similar classifications,” Racine’s advisory states.
“Destroying, defacing, or removing signs for discriminatory reasons could violate that law and subject the perpetrator to heightened penalties,” the advisory says. “In addition, the victim can bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator.”
Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou