The posters were found across the street, some piled up by the church, some stuck back into the ground.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A strange act of vandalism occurred on Tuesday around noon when the Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force's art installation in Park Square that calls attention to street harassment was taken down and moved.
It is not clear whether this was a prank or an act of harassment.
"Somebody thought it would be amusing to take down all our signs and move them across the street and put them on the church and the bank lawns," planning committee co-chair Susan Birns said, who went immediately to the scene when notified by a task force member around 4 on Tuesday.
"I was really upset because I thought it was a hate crime. I mean, every one of those signs had a woman on it, and almost all of them were women of color and I didn't like it and I wasn't entertained."
All 30 signs that depict illustrations from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s book "Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We're Taking Back Our Power" were removed from Park Square and put into piles on lawns with about 10 of them being displayed upright.
The display is one part of the "One Book, One Community" event that also includes a communitywide read of Fazlalizadeh’s book and a public webinar.
The signs were not damaged or vandalized. They are a monthlong installation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and have a very serious meaning. They have been on display for a couple of weeks.
Birns called the Pittsfield Police and found out that an officer noticed a group of people taking down the signs on their lunch break but was not aware that it was an unaffiliated party or an act of vandalism.
She clarified that she did her due diligence before becoming upset about the relocated installation by contacting the highway superintendent to confirm that the city had not taken them down.
She also contacted the neighboring churches — St. Stephen’s Parish and the First Church of Christ —that also confirmed that they too had nothing to do with it.
Through the lens of a prank, Birns said she could find humor in the situation as long as it doesn’t happen again, but a hate crime, she said, is obviously just unacceptable.
The signs were replaced in their intended area on Thursday.
"I don't know why it happened. It's unfortunate," Birns said. "I would say it's a story with a happy ending because these things are going to be up through April and it's important that nobody messes with them. My point of the campaign is against street harassment and moving them around is a way of harassment."
Residents are encouraged to contact the Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force with information on this incident. As of now, it is a bizarre mystery.