It only seems to be happening to us.
Patrick Farabaugh sounds exasperated. For the past several weeks he has been experiencing frustration after frustration with the vandal or vandals who are targeting the mailboxes and magazine issues of Our Lives, the monthly magazine for Madison’s LGBT community.
Sidewalk mailboxes belonging to Our Lives Magazine have been repeatedly vandalized and damaged. Farabaugh has often come to the offices of Our Lives to find Xerox copies of pro-Trump rhetoric on the office door. A rock has been thrown through their window.
To be sure, there have always been anti-LGBT forces doing juvenile and petty things to the issues of Our Lives. But Farabaugh has noticed a major uptick since the 2016 election.
“The frequency is just accelerating,” Farabaugh told Madison365. “I’ve definitely noticed that things have accelerated since the election. This was maybe a once-a-month thing before but now it’s once a week. I distributed the Pride issue a week ago and already the number of those issues ripped up and those boxes damaged is like four.”
Farabaugh doesn’t think it is only one person doing it, obviously, given the scope of the vandalism and the length of time it has been going on. But now, he feels at the end of his rope with it.
“The Streets Department emails the owners of the boxes. I hoped that there was some process where they could help. But it doesn’t seem like there is,” he said. “I went to the Madison Police Department and talked to an officer for about a half hour. The officer I spoke to was very sympathetic but not sure what they can do. Unless they actually catch someone doing it, they don’t know what they can do to stop it. People say just install cameras. But these are free standing mailboxes. I don’t own anything I could post cameras on, let alone the work it would take monitoring it.”
What Farabaugh is looking for is good, old fashioned community awareness and help policing the boxes and property of Our Lives. Additionally, any help people could give in just cleaning up the damage would be greatly appreciated.
“Maybe take a photo or some documentation they can send to the magazine’s Facebook page that could timestamp it and potentially show who it was,” Farabaugh said. “Other than that, shifting to community help, it’s just cleaning it up.”
For a long time Farabaugh has silently suffered under the yoke of having to deal with this. But now he feels it’s important to bring out into the open what is happening and how much vandalism has taken place.
“The sidewalk stuff has been going on forever,” Farabaugh said. The rate of vandalism is just escalating a lot. Like, the magazine has always had a history of our paper copies getting targeted in locations. Downtown has historically been the worst.”
When Farabaugh first began distributing Our Lives he was putting it in places like downtown coffee shops, a common practice among community publications at the time. Pretty quickly, he noticed that someone was going around about twice a week turning the entire stacks of copies upside down so that it would hide the cover. Eventually that led to the entire stacks being thrown in the garbage.
“Then I decided to get sidewalk mailboxes and then instantly it was vandalized. Ripping up window copies, dragging the boxes away, pouring water on the copies,” he said. “And then over the past six months I’ve had five boxes just flat out stolen. So I replaced them about two months ago. This is stuff that only happens to Our Lives’ boxes. Boxes get stuffed with trash or graffiti but it’s not a targeted hate attack like ours. Sometimes these little religious packets will be stuffed in our magazine. Last week I replaced some of the labels that had been stolen and it didn’t even last a week before it was ripped off.”
Farabaugh feels strongly that these are targeted hate actions towards Our Lives Magazine. They are the only LGBT publication or that has the public sidewalk mailboxes he is referring to. And none of the other boxes have faced the damage and attacks his have.
“The majority of what I’m saying here, the majority of the other media boxes aren’t having this happen to,” Farabaugh told Madison365. “It doesn’t happen to the other boxes.”
If anyone witnesses vandalism of the sidewalk mailboxes or the offices of Our Lives they are asked to document it with their phones and send the footage to Our Lives’ Facebook page.