TEMPLTETON (CBS) – In Templeton over the weekend, some neighbors say they saw a fresh sign of how bitter this presidential election has become.
“Within two hours, the police department received six or seven phone calls,” Mike Manca said as he worked on his holiday light display.
It was his election display that led to that visit from police Saturday afternoon.
Manca put up a large banner in his yard that read ‘It’s your duty to vote’, followed by the word ‘don’t’ and a play on the word renege.
“They (police) just said we can’t tell you to take it down. There is still freedom of speech in this country but they said it would be a good idea to take it down,” he said.
Since that chat with officers Saturday, Manca covered up the banner’s second line, replacing it with the line, ‘take America back.’
He insists he is not a racist, telling us he has black friends he’s hosted at his house and at his camp at a nearby lake.
He blamed the original message on a misspelling by the sign maker. “Actually I guess the guy making the sign misspelled it so there’s a little offense to that,” he said.
People took offense.
Some showed up with signs in front of his house.
“A friend of mine had actually sent me a picture of it and I couldn’t imagine that somebody would put something like that up in our town,” said Michael Gary.
Instead of joining other protesters, he put up his own sign that reads, ‘Templeton, no place for hate.’ He says he was shocked, saddened and embarrassed when he saw the banner in person.
The slogan on Manca’s sign first surfaced last spring with bumper stickers from a company based in Georgia.
Manca insists he had no idea those existed.
“No, I hadn’t seen em. Never seen ‘em,” he told us.
He does call President Obama the worst president the country has ever had. But, he maintains, his original banner was only meant to encourage his neighbors to vote.
It’ll encourage Michael Gary to work harder for his candidates in an election year where opinions are strong and reactions, sometimes stronger.
“I spoke with many people around town who were shocked that anyone would do that,” Gary said about the sign.
But Manca has his own take.
“There’s been more positive response than negative response,” he said. “I had friends calling me that night. In fact, I had people mad that I covered it.”