The man, later identified by police as 26-year-old James Blythe, is accused of stealing large cars and violating the law, according to the source.
The Florida incident is the latest example of heightened tensions in the days leading up to the election, as court signs and other public proclamations in support of one of the presidential candidates have become controversial – and occasionally lead to violence.
In the town of Haynes, about 40 miles southwest of Orlando, residents reported that their signs had been stolen from their backyards, Bay News 9 reported. But Saturday̵
Police say Bright went to a nearby construction site, stole a bulldozer and headed for Burgess’s yard, where the man fled along the fence and caught Biden’s signs. It is not clear whether the man removed the signs before or after retrieving the machine.
Neighbor Cornelius Marion said he witnessed the man driving the bulldozer to Burgess’s home.
“I thought someone was going to bulldoze the house, but I knew that couldn’t be right,” Marion told Bay News 9. “That’s why I called the police.”
He said he then witnessed Blight, “who turned the engine and just ran over that fence.”
Instead of waiting for the police to arrive, Marion jumped in his car and followed the man as he drove the bulldozer out of Burgess’s yard and down the street.
“He stopped the movement and drove everyone out,” Marion said. Blight is said to have been weaving in the streets, continuing to remove Biden’s signs from other yards.
“He took a front loader and actually dug them up,” Marion said, referring to Biden’s five-character home on the lawn.
Police said Blight also knocked down a city speed limit sign.
Police soon arrested Blight, who told authorities he was drunk at the time of the incident and could not remember what happened, according to Bay News 9.
“It’s absurd that an old man might think he has the right to destroy someone else’s property based on a difference of political opinion,” Haines City Police Chief Jim Elenski told The Washington Post on Monday. “The fact that he was driving this heavy equipment, that he didn’t know how to work, on busy roads could be catastrophic. We are grateful that no one was hurt on this issue. “
Blight remains in custody in Polk County in early Monday, according to prison records; it is not clear if he still has a lawyer.
Burgess, a former vice mayor of Haynes City, said the allegations against Blight were not strong enough. In a live Facebook video Saturday, Burgess said Blight’s actions were racially motivated, given that the neighborhood was made up mostly of blacks.
“There must be more penalties,” Burgess, who is Black, told Bay News 9. “It was a hate crime.”
Burgess said he believed the destruction of his property was directly linked to President Trump’s rhetoric about intimidation and violence.
“This speaks to the dog whistles that Donald Trump is exposing his entire campaign. “Stand back and wait.” And we have boys in bulldozers doing that, “Burgess told Bay News 9, citing Trump’s comments about the Proud Boys, a far-right group that supports the president. He added: “We want to make sure that the democratic process is intact, that we can vote without fear of problems and live in our community without fear of things happening that way. Its terrible.”
Unperturbed by the incident, Burgess and his friends responded by placing about 30 Biden signs around the house hours after the incident.
“You can’t keep a good dog down,” Burgess said in a Facebook video.