Crime

Campaign sign vandalism ‘clear message ... of hate and attempted intimidation,’ sheriff says

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the vandalism of a campaign sign of Whatcom County executive candidate Satpal Sidhu last weekend as a hate crime, according to Sheriff Bill Elfo.

“During the election season, the sheriff’s office sometimes receives complaints regarding the vandalism or theft of campaign signs,” Elfo told The Bellingham Herald. “However, in this instance, the clear message is one of hate and attempted intimidation. We have classified and are investigating this matter as a hate crime.”

Elfo said that Sidhu reported the incident Monday, Sept. 23, after his son observed the night before that a yard-sized campaign sign located near Valley View Road and Birch Bay Lynden Road had been vandalized.

The sign was defaced with paint on one side and had a racial slur painted on the reverse side, Elfo said. Deputies also found what appeared to be three bullet holes in the sign.

Elfo asked anyone with information on the crime to contact the sheriff’s office at 360-778-6600.

Sidhu disclosed the latest incident publicly Wednesday during a forum for Whatcom County executive candidates at the City Club in Bellingham.

In answering a question about racism at Wednesday’s forum, Sidhu discussed bias and bigotry in general terms and then announced that one of his signs had been defaced again, this time with a racial slur and bullet holes.

There were audible gasps in the room with about 200 people in attendance, followed by silence.

“I was born in India and I’ve served on the County Council for five years,” he told the audience. “That is a sign that Whatcom County is not racist. But racism does exist.”

Several of Sidhu’s large campaign signs were defaced, cut down or stolen last summer, and the incidents were reported to the sheriff’s office.

In previous interviews, Sidhu told The Herald that he thinks he is being targeted because of his status as an immigrant.

Sidhu’s campaign signs are not the only ones that have been targeted this election season.

Bellingham police responded at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, to the report that political signs had been stolen from the 500 block of North Garden Street. Lt. Claudia Murphy said all three signs appeared to be for Bellingham mayoral candidate April Barker and it was only the report Bellingham police have received for stolen campaign signs this year.

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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