It’s getting ugly and the Manteca City Council election isn’t for another 88 days.
Manteca council hopeful Jose Nuno has had one large campaign sign burned and another ripped apart with both acts caught on smartphone videos.
Council candidate Chris Silva’s sign on the Del Taco side of the Spreckels Avenue and East Yosemite Avenue intersection has been defaced with a small swastika on the forehead of his photo and the letters “SS” — the initials in German for the Schutzstaffel that was a major paramilitary organization under Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party — below the corner of his left eye.
There have unfortunately always been a few signs swiped or knocked down repeatedly but this is on a whole new level Manteca has never seen before.
What appear to be four young men in hoodies with several on bicycles were caught on video lighting a Nuno sign on fire that was located on the southwest corner of Daniels Street and Fishback Road adjacent to the AM/PM gas station.
Nuno is grateful that the person who caught the late night vandalism — assuming it is just that — on his smartphone also was a Good Samaritan as he managed to get the fire out before it lit mulch on fire and created additional damage.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the video of another young man caught via smartphone tearing apart another large Nuno sign on Union Road just south of the city’s main fire station.
In that instance, as he’s capturing the vandalism on his smartphone the witness can be heard asking the young man why he tore down the sign.
His response: “I just did, so what.”
Ben Cantu a few weeks ago provided video of his campaign signs being stolen by a young man with a hoodie. The incident was caught on a home surveillance camera.
All candidates in the 2016 municipal election experienced sign theft, signs being knocked down, and signs being damaged. Every candidate had volunteers who worked to replace or put signs back up.
Such issues rarely happen to commercial signs outside of graffiti.
After the second incident, Nuno indicated he plans to fill out a police report. He won’t say it but there are clear overtones to the acts given his last name.
What is happening is beyond brazen. Pranksters aren’t usually proud they’re caught on video. The burning — not simple destruction of a campaign sign — takes it all to a new level.
This is not an issue of destructive run-of-the-mill vandalism to signs that cost candidates and their supporters $50 to $100 a pop depending upon the quantity they buy.
This is ugly. If the acts aren’t racist, they’re perilously close.
Equally disturbing is the defacing of the Silva sign.
What a Swastika is and represents is fairly common knowledge.
Granted it has been used way too much in bad attempts at what some might over generously call sophomoric humor by individuals, but the “SS” below the eye elevates the act beyond vandalism.
It takes it from playing with fire to a fairly clear sign those doing the vandalism are either hardcore racists or heading that way.
Separately the vandalism is disturbing at best. When looked at together it should alarm us as a community.
These are not acts against a candidate as much as they are an act against what Manteca represents — a diverse mixture of cultures, faiths, ethnic groups, and social-economic groups — that work together as a community.
It is not simply a thoughtless act when campaign signs are burned, marred with racist symbols, or ripped apart by a perpetrator who takes glee in targeting a specific candidate.
We can’t let this be Manteca.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org