All residents with signs in their yard who wish to remove such signs without exposing themselves to the wrath of interest groups across the City may do so on the upcoming “sign amnesty day,” announced by the Consortium of Concerned Interest Groups in Evanston. Provided a sign-owner can demonstrate a sign has been on display for no less than four months, the owner may remove the sign on Amnesty Day without risking the necessary implication, when a sign is removed, that the removing party no longer supports the cause in question.
Immigrants rights groups have signed on, making “all are welcome here” (in multiple languages) signs eligible, as have “Black Lives Matter” groups. The City agreed to sponsor the Amnesty by directly any 311 or 911 calls to a special hotline, assuring callers that signs are not being stolen.
“As a City, we need to understand that residents who wish to help solve our various societal problems through yard signage don’t promise indefinite public advocacy when the metal frame goes into the ground,” said Pearl LeBlanc, the City’s public advocacy specialist. “Signs have a lifespan like everything else, and eventually, after the message has been delivered and seen by drivers and pedestrians for a long enough time, signs can be removed. It does not mean a resident is any less committed to the cause.”
Not everyone agrees with the Amnesty decision. Albert Manhopple, speaking during public comment at City Council and carrying six signs with him at the time, said, “If you don’t have a sign in the yard, you don’t believe in the cause on the card.” Several in the back of council chambers erupted into cheers.
It was not enough to sway council, however, and the matter passed without comment or controversy.
Another group was a bit more sanguine in approaching sign amnesty. Jerry Mulquetoste, founder and chief executive of We Still Believe, said his business stood ready and willing to assist any sign-sporting residents who miss Amnesty Day. For a modest fee, he said, his operative will remove signs and make it appear as if the removal was politically motivated.
“People want their yard back, but they don’t want anyone to think they have abandoned the cause. That’s where we come in,” he said. We Still Believe will even video the faux furtive removals, giving residents “proof” that signs were not taken down by the property owners themselves.
While on the surface, Sign Amnesty Day might appear bad for business, Mr. Mulqutoste said he felt otherwise. “By calling attention to the need some feel to take signs down without the associated stigma, I know our service will actually become even more in demand,” he said. "Not everyone will be ready on Amnesty Day, which we expect only once a year."
A notably interest group will not participate in Amnesty Day, “There is nothing more important to the community that this building,” said Ms. LeBlanc about the Harley Clarke mansion. “Those signs simply must remain.”
For all others, Sign Amnesty Day will be April 1, 2019.