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Muskego police investigate Obama campaign sign burning

Oct. 22, 2012

Muskego - Police are investigating an incident in which an Obama campaign sign was set ablaze, likely with a flammable liquid, in the yard of a Muskego home last weekend.

Obama's name could still be seen in a corner of the melted sign, but it otherwise almost entirely burned up, even leaving some spots of blackened grass on the North Shore Road home of Bill Schuele.

Authorities believe a small amount of a flammable liquid, such as gasoline, was used to help ignite the fire about 11 p.m. Saturday. A car driven by the suspected arsonist was seen by a passerby, police said.

Schuele, who has lived on North Shore Drive for 25 years, viewed it as an unsettling attempt at intimidation.

"It reminded me of Mississippi in the '50s," he said, referring churches and other property were burned by opponents of the civil rights movement.

The fire burned itself out, and Schuele was relieved that the leaves on the lawn weren't drier and that the arsonist didn't use more gasoline. "Circumstances could have been worse," he said.

Muskego Police Capt. Craig Moser said the burning is probably a first for Muskego.

"I haven't heard of that happening before," he said, noting that campaign signs have been removed in the past. "It appears to be an isolated incident."

Ben Sparks, spokesman for the Romney campaign in Wisconsin, said, "We don't condone behavior like that. It has no connection with the campaign."

Schuele said this kind of thing has no place in the political discourse of a free society.

He places the blame on extremism whipped up by talk shows that spread negativity onto the stage of ideas. He also cited politicians who refuse to cooperate with each other so that they can play the blame game. Pushing people to extremes eventually poisons the body politic, Schuele said.

"Ideas can't be extreme because nothing can live on the extreme," he said.

"You have to work with people," Schuele added. "Everyone's got to be involved, working from the middle."

Schuele points to his politically opposite neighbor as taking the right course. In 2008, when someone pulled out the Obama sign on Schuele's lawn, his neighbor set it back up.

"That shows the difference" in how to approach others with differing opinions, Schuele said.

But Schuele isn't giving up, saying he plans to put up a new sign beside the burned one.

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