Selectman Doug Sears said he has no regrets over helping his wife remove a large poster featuring a likeness of President Barack Obama with a "Hitler mustache" from off a utility pole near Bank of America on Thursday, Feb. 2.
Sears said he could see the poster as he drove along East Street, approaching Main Street but had no intention of removing it.
His wife had other ideas.
According to Sears, as his car sat idling at a stop sign, Suzanne Sears got out and headed over to where a member of LaRouchePac, the political action committee of former controversial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, had set up a small informational table along the sidewalk near Bank of America.
But it was the large poster of Obama that was Ms. Sears target. It's a poster LaRouche and his supporters have used to compare the Obama administration with Nazi Germany since 2009.
"My wife can be a bit impulsive," said Doug Sears, who said he pulled over and got out of his car to make sure she would be safe. "She got out of the car and said, 'No one's going to disrespect my president in my town.'"
When they got to the sign, there was a brief exchange of words, according to Sears, with a LaRouchePac worker claiming he had permission from police for what he was doing.
Sears says he has no problem with the public assembly on the sidewalk. He pointed out there was a union protest going on at the same time on the Town Common. What caught Sears' attention was that the Obama sign had been attached to the utility pole, something he believes to be illegal because the pole is privately owned by a utility company.
"I'm pretty sure he didn't have permission to put the sign on private property," said Sears, a Republican who plans to run against incumbent state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, in the fall. Sears also said he found the visual of a poster of a black man on a pole resembled "a lynching" and was inappropriate for the center of Tewksbury.
In response to the man's assertion of police permission, Sears and his wife took the sign and headed over to nearby Police Headquarters. As they arrived, the LarouchePac worker (whose name has not been made available) had already called dispatch to complain about his sign being taken.
At Police Headquarters, the Sears' spoke with Deputy Chief John Voto and left the sign. According to the police report, a detective photographed the sign and no charges were filed.
"The Municipal Law Unit at the Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the matter and doesn’t see any civil rights violation which would be appropriate for prosecution by their office," said Police Chief Timothy Sheehan. "They have deferred to the D.A.’s Office for any potential criminal prosecution. The D.A’s Office is currently reviewing the matter."
Reached by telephone, a spokesperson for LaRouchePac's Boston office had no official comment on the incident.