Guilford GOP headquarters vandalized

by Jordan Green

Guilford County Republican Party Executive Director Michael Picarelli points out out similarities between graffiti left in two separate incidents. (photo by Jordan Green)

On Sunday, Jeff Cox, a volunteer with the Guilford County Republican Party, went to the party headquarters on West Market Street in Greensboro to pick up campaign signs when he discovered that a vandal had repeatedly spray-painted the words “KKK” and “Klan” on the outside wall of the storefront.

Michael Picarelli, executive director of the county party, said this is the second vandalism incident in recent months. In July, someone spray-painted “Klan meets here” on the outside wall in a style that appears to be identical to the lettering that appeared over the weekend.

Picarelli said he believes the vandals targeted the headquarters because of disagreements with the party’s policies.

“This election is very divisive,” he said.

“The landfill controversy is causing a lot of division. As a party, we certainly don’t condone this action.

“It’s definitely youth,” Picarelli added. “‘U R KKK’ doesn’t scream out intelligence.”

Efforts to reopen the White Street Landfill by a quartet of conservative Republican members of council, including Mayor Bill Knight, at-large Councilman Danny Thompson, District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw and District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade, have prompted a political backlash, with landfill opponents vowing to punish them at the polls. Yard signs for Knight, Rakestraw and Chris Lawyer, a political newcomer who supports reopening the landfill on a temporary basis, are prominently displayed in the headquarters’ plate-glass window.

Greensboro City Council elections are officially nonpartisan, but Republican candidates have landed on both sides of the landfill issue. Robbie Perkins and Tom Phillips are both Republican mayoral candidates who oppose reopening the landfill and have spoken out in favor of investing more dollars in infrastructure, placing themselves at odds with the council’s current conservative leadership. Perkins in particular has traditionally drawn strong support from African-American Democrats in east Greensboro along with progressive white voters across the city.

Despite past conflicts between a Republican faction aligned with the tea party movement and more mainstream party activists, the party has somewhat closed ranks behind the conser vative incumbents.

Picarelli took to Facebook last week, writing, “Our current conservative members of council have chosen to tackle controversial issues in order to exercise fiscal restraint. This strength of character is going to be even more important in the coming years as we will be facing even more tough economic times.

“Conservative voters in Greensboro must get out, and get out early, to keep our city council on its path to fiscal responsibility. Our action is mandatory, as this group feels empowered by the decision on the landfill and is now targeting voters to vote out the conservative members of council in favor of candidates with a leftist agenda. This group is motivated, organized and has taken specific steps to reach members of the community and encourage them to vote. We must do the same and knock on doors, post signs and take to the streets.”

Picarelli said he doesn’t think the vandalism was committed by anyone associated with the Democratic Party or anyone affiliated with Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice, an anti-landfill group lead by former Councilwoman Goldie Wells.

“I’ve talked to a lot of groups in opposition to the landfill,” Picarelli said. “I don’t think they’re out there preaching violence. This is a younger, extremely aggressive group.”

Picarelli said he believes the vandalism was committed on Saturday evening, considering that volunteers had been at the headquarters to hand out campaign signs that day. Public Information Officer Susan Danielsen said the Greensboro Police Department has developed no leads, noting that the vandal did not leave a particular design or symbol that might help with identification. The department is encouraging anyone with information about the incident to call CrimeStoppers at 336.373.1000.

The tagger did leave what looks like a misshapen “O.”

“It’s kind of disturbing they would put ‘KKK’ on a Republican Party wall,” Picarelli said. “It’s a hate-filled message. It could definitely stir up some violence against the party.”

He added that party leaders are urging volunteers to engage in door-to-door campaigning in groups of at least two to ensure their protection. The party also plans to install surveillance cameras to try to deter future incidents.

“We’re going to make sure we preach a message from within the party that this is not an attack from the Democratic Party. We don’t want anyone to retaliate. We want to stay above board. Not only should it not happen to us, but it shouldn’t happen to anyone.”