Oxford artist Amanda Pauliks made this sign for Melinda Blair’s yard in Norway.

NORWAY — Melinda Blair wanted to make a clear statement about where she stands on social and racial justice. Over the last two weeks her statement received both negative and positive feedback and has now blossomed into a community/art activist movement for tolerance and support.

“There’s been a lot going on lately with the protests and everything,” said Blair on Monday. “And then Norway was in the news about the inappropriate signs in someone’s window and the two guys who confronted him. I felt I need to do something to show my stance.”

A post inquiring about where to get a pride flag on Facebook led her to Amanda Pauliks, an Oxford resident who calls herself a hobby artist. Paulicks offered to help Blair make a sign announcing her values. Pauliks enlisted her fiancé Alexis Driscoll and the three installed the sign in Blair’s yard on Jun. 7.

Blair got several compliments and was pleased to learn neighbors had started posting pictures of it on their own Facebook pages. But 10 days later she was shocked to find that it had been vandalized overnight, the colorful messages covered by black spray paint.

“One my neighbors took a picture of the damage at 5 a.m. on Thursday, so it must have happened the night before,” said Blair. “I didn’t even notice it myself until later in the morning.”

Blair immediately reported the vandalism to the Norway Police Department.

“Based on what I’ve heard, there were a couple of incidents with some teenagers Wednesday night,” said Blair. “But I don’t know the details.”

Blair posted a picture of the damaged sign on Facebook’s Oxford Hills Community Page and reaction was both swift and uplifting.

One person commented, “I loved that sign when I drove by…now I am going to have to find one just like it to put up at my house! When the hate is loud, love louder!”

“I drive by this sign almost daily. It always makes me smile. It saddens me this kind of cruelty has seeped into our community,” posted another.

Pauliks has already started sanding down the sign to repair it.

“Even before this happened, I had a couple of requests to make more,” said Pauliks. “Now people are sending me messages, offering to pay for the cost to repair it. I’ve gotten orders to make even more. I didn’t do this for money, but people are insisting on paying for the signs. I’m also accepting paint and supplies donated to make them.

“It’s great the way a hateful act is bringing our community together in such a positive way.”

For her part, Blair is looking forward to putting up her repainted sign. She said a number of people have said they want to get signs for their own yards and she can’t wait to see the colorful messages posted throughout her Norway neighborhood.

Melinda Blair’s sign was vandalized overnight between Jun. 17-18. Supplied photo

This political banner hanging at a residence in Oxford was vandalized last week. Supplied photo

Ironically, a President Trump reelection banner outside a residence in Oxford was defaced last week as well, the word “BIGOT!” painted across it in black. Oxford Police Chief Michael Ward reached out to the owner of the property, Mark McClellan, after receiving an anonymous complaint from a passerby. McClellan did not report the crime himself, but filed a police report after speaking with Chief Ward. He has since replaced his banner with a new one.

Chiefs Federico and Ward do not believe the two vandalism incidents to be related. Both Norway and Oxford police departments are investigating tips they hope will lead to the culprits involved.


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