The University Police Department is investigating an incident Friday night involving the vandalism of Associated Student Body candidates’ campaign signs.
Some candidates running in the ASB executive officer race had their campaign signs pushed over, damaged or painted on. The signs were set back up later that night.
Pictures circulating on social media showed secretary candidate Dylan Wood’s signed defaced with green and black paint. Green paint spelled the letters “BLM!” on the sign, and black paint covered the top of the Mississippi state flag, marking out the Confederate emblem.
Wood found out his sign was defaced Saturday morning when his friends texted him photographs of it.
Wood said he was in disbelief and saddened when he found out what happened to his sign. He said everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions and those opinions should be expressed, but he would never deface someone else’s property to express his opinion or dissatisfaction with someone else’s opinion.
“I was just sad because I feel like anyone who knows me knows that black lives do matter to me and that being proud of being from Mississippi does not have to mean that I do not care about others,” Wood said.
He said ASB is doing everything it can to handle the situation.
“The attorney general, Brent Ferguson, is doing his very best to help me in whatever ways he can,” Wood said.
Wood said he wants a conversation to come out of this incident.
“I don’t even want the student who did it to be punished for their actions, but I would like the opportunity to sit down with them face-to-face and explain how just because I support my state’s flag, that does not mean that any life is less valuable to me,” Wood said. “I’d also like the opportunity to explain to them how I plan to make ASB work better for all groups of students, regardless of race, religion or culture.”
The Daily Mississippian reached out Sunday evening to Wood and vice presidential candidates Coco McDonnell and Matt Gladden after receiving news tips or photos that their signs also experienced damage.
McDonnell’s was pushed and broken at the base. She said the sign was easily fixed.
“It’s extremely disheartening to see that a group of individuals thinks so little of us in ASB to the point where they want to vandalize and damage our campaign signs,” McDonnell said.
“I’ve decided that I do not want to make a statement on this matter as my sign sustained no damaged. Thank you,” Gladden said in a text message.
Sunday evening, The Daily Mississippian also reached out to ASB President Austin Powell, Attorney General Brent Ferguson and Vice President Michael Howell for comment on how ASB was handling the incident.
Howell said ASB would be releasing a joint statement. The full statement is below.
We as ASB Executive Officers were saddened and extremely disappointed to hear that certain candidates’ campaign materials were defaced and damaged this past weekend. Since learning about the incidents, the Attorney General has talked to the involved candidates and the Executive Officers and is in the process of talking to University Police Department about the incident.
Students with concerns regarding the election process and election violations should contact ASB Attorney General Brent Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org per the elections process laid out in the ASB Constitution and Code. Students with information or concerns regarding the defamation of personal property that occurred should contact the University Police Department at email@example.com or 662-915-7234, as UPD is the appropriate channel to report vandalism of property. All involved candidates have been made aware of both processes.
ASB Executive Officers do not condone the defamation of personal property regardless of any student’s ideology or political views. We encourage all students to remembers the Creed during this upcoming week and respect the spirit of the elections process.
We encourage students to get involved and vote in the upcoming election. ASB urges consideration of each candidate based on his or her merit and platform when casting ballots on March 7.
The Associated Student Body Executive Officers
The Daily Mississippian will continue to report on this story as it develops, including reaching out to the University Police Department for details on the investigation as they become available.
– Lana Ferguson