WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield homeowner Valerie Latona woke Tuesday morning to find that someone had spray-painted the sign on her fence that read “Love trumps hate” to read “Love trump.”
“The sign has been ripped down numerous times,” Latona said. “We just put it back up. So many people have stopped by to say they love the sign and never take it down. We’ve gotten letters in the mail saying the same thing. But then something turned this past weekend. We got a letter in the mail addressed to ‘occupants’ basically saying we needed to accept the election results and take down our anti-Trump campaign sign … That night, our sign got shot at with an Airsoft gun so there were about 30 to 40 holes in the sign. And then the black spray paint.”
Before Tuesday was over, others gave her a new sign that reads “Westfielders for Respect & Love” to post next to the original on Rahway Avenue.
Latona posted her first “Love trumps hate” sign before the election, she said.
“We initially had a lawn sign up that said ‘love trumps hate’ and it was stolen. So we wanted to put up a sign that couldn't be easily stolen, hence the banner on our fence,” she said. “We felt very strongly, given so much hate that was displayed throughout this past election, that we wanted to make a stand about values not candidates. This was something we felt was important for our kids as well. This wasn't about people/candidates; it’s about values. Now someone might say, ‘Well that was one of Hillary Clinton's campaign slogans.’ And to that I say, “Yes, it was, but she doesn’t own the rights to that slogan just as Trump doesn't own the rights to the verb ‘trump’ with a lowercase ‘t.’”
Latona said they didn’t originally intend to keep the sign up after the election “until more hateful, angry outbursts occurred after the election. So we thought that it was important to keep it up, particularly for the kids of Westfield who walk/drive by that sign in the way to school. We didn't do it for publicity or to piss off any one of any political party. We did it to express our values and try to make a difference in our area. We can watch the news and feel helpless to do anything. We can each make a difference in our communities, and that’s what we have tried to do.”
Latona said they reported the vandalism to the police.
“As I told them, it seems to be escalating,” she said. “Pulling down a sign is one thing. Spraying it with Airsoft bullets and black spray paint is another thing. It’s vandalism but it also demonstrates an anger and hatred that is violent. And as a mother that is worrisome.”
On Wednesday, a photo of the vandalized sign was posted in the Westfield, NJ Facebook group, generating a heated discussion among the group’s 5,000-plus members. (The group is moderated by TAPinto Westfield owner Jackie Lieberman.)
The response to the sign has been “interesting,” Latona said.
“After the spray paint, this took on a life of its own,” Latona said. “I was amazed at the outpouring of support and love from the Westfield community. Two people asked me if they could put up that second sign, which they had made, before the school kids got out of school and I gave them my okay. It’s important to note that one of the women who made the sign is a Republican so this is not about political parties. One woman dropped off flowers to say how much she has loved driving by the sign. Another dropped off a bottle of wine to say the same thing — basically, ‘thank you for doing this.’ I guess I didn't realize how much people loved our sign.”
The family will probably end up taking the current signs down and and putting up a new “love trumps hate” sign, she Latona added, “but I'm thinking of changing it to ‘love, kindness & respect trump hate.’ We'll have to see how that fits.”