New Bedford School Committee member John Oliveira has a message for whoever tries to steal the Trump campaign sign that’s in front of his house: “Do not step on my right to free speech. Because the consequences could be shocking.”
Oliveira, an ardent supporter of the president, recently installed a small electric fence about 3 feet high around a single red-white-and-blue Trump 2020 yard sign — a move he said was necessary after about a half-dozen signs were swiped from his property this summer.
He said the signs promoting the president’s reelection campaign started to go missing in July. He first placed two along his walkway. But after a couple of weeks, they disappeared.
“So I’m saying, ‘Alright, some freakin’ moron stole the signs,’ ” he said. “No big deal. [Expletive] happens.”
Slightly annoyed, the sometimes-controversial town official purchased two more signs — at $20 a piece — and placed them where the others had been. But again, they were stolen, Oliveira said. After a third pair of signs went up, the results were similar.
“This is more than just somebody being a jackass,” he said. “People are messing with my personal property, and it’s costing me money. And it’s my right to free speech, especially on my own property.”
Oliveira, a Navy veteran, said he filed at least two police reports about the stolen signs, but didn’t think that would necessarily solve the issue. Installing a camera also didn’t sound promising, he said, and so, he went to a farm supply store and purchased materials for the electric fence.
“It’s a little yellow-black wire fence; you usually see them around horse pastures, that kind of thing,” he said. “It will give you a shock.”
Asked if he tried it out, Oliveira said he’s been shocked enough times in his life while working on farmland, “so I didn’t need to test it out.”
The fence, he said, has warning signs around it to let people know it could potentially pack a bit of a punch. The labels are in “English, Spanish, and French,” he said.
Oliveira said since installing the fence, his sign has not been stolen.
“It looks like hell, I’ll give you that,” he said of the fence’s appearance. “But I’m not going to not put a sign up because somebody keeps stealing it or somebody keeps taking it because they don’t like what I’m saying. No, that’s my right to free speech; don’t mess with it.”
Oliveira said if this were any other state, he may have defended that right differently.
“If this was elsewhere, I’d be standing out there with an AR-15, protecting my property,” he said.