NEWBURYPORT — A local man has been issued a summons to appear in Newburyport District Court for damaging lawn signs supportive of President Donald Trump over the holiday weekend.
Former City Council candidate Robert Germinara said he saw Elias Giordano, 20, circling his Ashland Street home on a bicycle about 7:30 p.m. Friday. He said Giordano was clad in a hood and face covering.
The bicyclist checked his surroundings before ripping two Trump/Pence 2020 signs from wooden posts, Germinara said.
As this happened, Germinara’s girlfriend was in the backyard and started yelling as she approached the man on the bicycle. Germinara ran outside and chased the bicyclist up the street before returning for his car.
In an interview with The Daily News, Germinara said he eventually caught up to the man on North Atkinson Street and stopped him. Germinara said neighbors came outside and someone called police after hearing the commotion.
The suspect’s father, who Germinara identified as John Giordano, a co-founder of Indivisible-RISE Newburyport, came out of a nearby home to see what was happening as well.
Newburyport police Officers Josh Tierney and Ryan Cutter responded and took statements.
When asked Wednesday when Elias Giordano might go before a judge or a clerk magistrate, Newburyport District Court Clerk Kerrin Costello declined to comment. Costello said until a person issued a summons is arraigned, she is not prepared to discuss the matter.
Germinara said he has not had any previous encounters with anyone in the Giordano family.
“It was an unprovoked attack,” Germinara told the newspaper. “To me, it’s a hate crime. I wouldn’t be down on North Atkinson Street or anywhere else ripping down political signs.”
In acknowledging other issues going on in the world, Germinara said he did not wish to press charges that night, but demanded that Elias Giordano and his father stay away from his property.
“Basically, the incident was over to me,” Germinara said, after giving his statement to police. He said his signs were bent and ripped, but he put them back up that night along with a no trespassing sign.
About 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Germinara said he saw John Giordano on his property reportedly taking photos of the signs. Germinara confronted him, told Giordano he was not allowed on his property, and then called police to report the incident.
This time, Germinara told police he wanted to press charges for what he said was “trespassing, harassment and to me, it’s a hate crime.”
When reached by The Daily News, John Giordano declined to comment on the incident.
Germinara said he doesn’t care who people vote for as long as they get out and vote, adding that he is “respectful” of other people’s lawn signs.
“I have voted since the day I turned 18, and I’m 53,” he said.
The attempted theft of political signs last weekend is part of a backdrop of increasing local tension related to the upcoming presidential election, police, racism and protests within city limits.
Late last month, a local man was arrested after allegedly striking a woman with a sign as she and others protested police brutality at a rally in Market Square in support of Black Lives Matter.
A portion of the incident was filmed by a protester who claimed Newburyport police Officer Kevin Martin declined to help because of “defund the police” protests locally and across the country. The Martin matter is now under investigation by local leaders, including Mayor Donna Holaday.
More recently, anti-police graffiti directed at Martin was spray-painted on Jersey barriers on Middle Street, and graffiti critical of Holaday was discovered Wednesday on Prince Place near Newburyport Public Library. A work crew with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department was dispatched to remove or cover the graffiti.
About the same time Germinara reported the theft of Trump/Pence campaign signs, protesters stretched an anti-police banner across the main entrance to City Hall right below an American flag.
The banner showed a clenched fist with “Disarm” above it and “Defund” below it, referring to calls across the country to “defund” police departments or to redirect police department funds toward more mental health or counseling services.