Partisan tensions flare in Carbon County ahead of Election Day

Written by on November 2, 2020

Partisan tensions flare in Carbon County ahead of Election Day

By Haley O’Brien

November 2, 2020

Please be patient: We most likely won’t know the results of the Nov. 3 election in Pa. and across the country for several days. Find out more about how WLVR News will cover election night and after.

Political signs are present across the Lehigh Valley as the historic election approaches. And so are political tensions.

Listen to the story.

WLVR’s Haley O’Brien reports from Carbon County, where a woman says she’s had her home vandalized several times for displaying which presidential candidate she supports.

Tina Smith-Henninger lives on a rural two-lane road in in Lower Towamensing township.

“I have a Biden sign. My neighbors over there have a small Trump flag, my neighbors there have a very large Trump flag,” she explained.

Smith-Henninger has a ‘This is Biden country’ sign outside her home. It’s not in great shape after someone recently threw pumpkins at it.

She’s had the sign up since June, but in the past few weeks, it’s been the target of escalated attention. 

“We would have the occasional childish person yelling obscenities as they drove by or whatever, you expect that. Then it started with trash throwing, that was annoying but not terrible. Then it progressed; now they’re throwing glass not just at the sign but at my house, too. The other night it was paintballs. They shot my sign and my house; they shot my windows.”

State trooper David Peters says this is a case of criminal mischief and can result in a fine or a misdemeanor charge depending on the amount of damage.

“Had the window been smashed and the paintball came through — if it was something other than a paintball that could have endangered the victim in the house — you could put a charge of reckless endangerment out there.” 

Smith-Henninger installed cameras outside her home after the paintball shots were fired. She had a Hillary sign up in 2016. She got some yells out the window but nothing more. She didn’t think this would happen in her small community outside of Palmerton.

“It’s gotten to the point where now I am actually considering where do we sit on the couch, should I move it away from the window? The fact that I actually have to think about that because my neighbors, people in my community, have chosen rather than dare allow someone to express a different opinion from them, they have to violently attack.”

Police say sign-stealing and vandalism occur every election season. Over the weekend, part of the Carbon County “Trump Train” — a caravan of vehicles — fell victim, too. The Times News reported police are investigating after a vehicle’s tires were slashed.

Trooper Peters says state police are keeping a close watch on everything that’s going on.

“Polling stations, rallies, crowds, anything that’s bringing a large number of people in the public, especially during COVID; understanding the mitigation guidelines in place for rallies. And then things that are going on, the contentions that people have on each side, hopefully we can keep them peaceful,” he said.

With heightened partisanship amid the pandemic and civil unrest, and the election just hours away, Peters says state police won’t be letting their guard down.

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