Residents in a predominantly Black Central Florida neighborhood in Haines City, Florida, were shocked to find some of their properties damaged and destroyed. But they were even more surprised to discover the reason behind the actions.
“I looked at the fence and looked at the house and said, ‘what happened;’ that’s when I saw the signs were gone,” said Haines City resident Karen Washington.
Haines City Police Department officers arrested a local man for destroying front yards and Biden-Harris campaign signs like ones Washington had in her yard. Police say 26-year-old James Blight stole a bulldozer from a construction site on Saturday, Oct. 24 around 1:30 p.m. He reportedly used the stolen equipment to dig up presidential campaign signs for Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, including leveling a fence that held signs, before proceeding to bulldoze over a city-owned speed limit sign.
Blight faces charges of trespassing on a construction site and grand theft auto. While additional charges may be added, Adam Burgess of Haines City said that’s not enough.
“This is a hate crime and I’m disappointed with the Haines City Police Department,” said Burgess.
Burgess is a lifelong resident of Haines City and also the former vice mayor of Haines City.
“We’re good people who love our country and we want to make sure the democratic process is intact and we can vote without fear of issues and live in our community without things like this happening. It’s terrible.”
Burgess told Atlanta Black Star he plans to press charges.
“To come into our community and to destroy property, it speaks to the dog whistles Trump puts out. Stand back and stand by and we have guys in bulldozers doing this,” said Burgess. “What does the president or Fox News have to say about things like this?”
The Haines City Police Department said that Blight told officers he had been drinking whiskey all day and didn’t remember most of that day. However, he reportedly didn’t receive a sobriety test or face charges relating to DUI.
“The president isn’t saying anything about this or other acts of violence. He’s encouraging them to intimidate voters at the poll or say the process isn’t fair,” said Burgess. “We’ve been voting in this county for 200 years and we don’t need the proud boys to make sure the process is intact. We have the elections committee for that. What we need people to do is recognize this is America and we don’t pick our president out of evoking fear. We do it at the polls.”
Burgess and his family told Atlanta Black Star that they plan to make their voices heard at the polls.