Friday, September 17, 2004

A West Virginia man said yesterday that Democrats stole his family’s Bush-Cheney campaign signs at an event featuring Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards.

“They just pounced on us,” said Phil Parlock, who took his 11-year-old son, Alex, and 3-year-old daughter, Sophia, to the Democratic rally at Tri-State Airport in Huntington, W.Va.

Sophia became briefly famous yesterday when an Associated Press photo showing her in tears after Democrats tore her sign to pieces was posted on Matt Drudge’s Web site,

“She was crying; they were pushing and shoving her,” said Mr. Parlock, a Huntington real estate agent. “She was scared.”

Sophia is the youngest of 10 children in a proudly patriotic family. The oldest two Parlock children, a 22-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son, are members of the West Virginia Army National Guard, and a third Parlock — who recently turned 18 — will be sworn into the guard tomorrow, Mr. Parlock said.

The Parlocks went to Mr. Edwards’ airport rally yesterday “to support the president,” Mr. Parlock said, and brought nine Bush-Cheney signs with them.

“We stood there quietly while Senator Edwards went through the receiving line,” he said. Then, as the North Carolina Democrat prepared to leave, Mr. Parlock said, “I took out a few Bush-Cheney signs, gave one to Alex, and Sophia and I held up one jointly.”

Immediately, he said, the family was set upon by supporters of Mr. Edwards and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry — “mostly the painters union guys” — who “started stealing my signs.” Soon, “old women and college students joined in the fracas,” said Mr. Parlock, describing himself as “strictly a volunteer, grass-roots supporter” of the president. Mr. Parlock ran unsuccessfully for his local school board this year.

After the family returned home from the rally yesterday, he said, a friend called to tell him about the AP photo on the Drudge site. “In the picture, you can see one of the painters union guys has a piece of one of my signs in his hand.”

A call to the Kerry-Edwards campaign last night was not returned.

Anti-war demonstrators have complained in recent weeks that they have been manhandled by security agents at Bush-Cheney campaign events.

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