CHELTENHAM >> It all started with a sign from a neighbor. Two months and 6,000 signs later, interest in “Hate Has No Home Here” signs has shown no sign of abating.
After a neighbor asked Glenside resident Kate Thomson, a marketing consultant with two young children, in mid-December if she wanted one of the yard signs, Thomson said she thought “maybe 20 friends might be interested,” so she texted them and they wanted not one, but six or 10, she said.
She decided to do her own print run of 100, but “one thing led to another and it turned into 700,” Thomson said. “It’s past 6,000 now,” she said Feb. 9 of the number she has had printed, “and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.”
A reaction to the divisive nature of the presidential election, the sign was created by residents of a diverse Chicago neighborhood and designed by Steven Luce with a slogan suggested by an elementary school child. The signs, which have a heart with stars and stripes, spell out Hate Has No Home Here in English, Arabic, Hebrew, Korean and Spanish and are nonpartisan — printed in red on one side and blue on the other.
“People are inquiring now about how they can start a campaign, rather than asking for a sign,” Thomson said, noting 10 sister campaigns have been started in the Philadelphia area.
Of the 6,000 signs, “maybe 3,000 to 4,000” have been picked up from Thomson at her home, she said. The community-owned Weavers Way Co-ops in Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy started distributing the signs, and now several stores in Glenside — Primex, Dovetail Artisans and 245 North Gallery — have them, she said.
Elayne Aion, owner of Dovetail Artisans, said Feb. 14 she had distributed close to 2,000 and had a couple hundred in stock.
“After the election, there was such an uptick in violence — condoned, not discouraged — the sign really appealed to me,” Aion said. Those coming in for the signs “are feeling the way I’m feeling. They’re looking for a way to put forth the message of safety, inclusiveness of neighbors. It’s a bipartisan way of saying our community is not a hate-filled community.
“Apparently quite a few have been stolen off lawns,” she said. “How anyone can object to ‘no hate’ is mystifying to me.”
The signs are being distributed from homes and stores “to maintain the cohesion of our community,” Aion said. “It’s happening here and across the country.”
Five-inch magnets with the heart and flag and #nohate will also be available in about two weeks, she said.
Primex owner David Green said Feb. 15 he had sold — no profit is made on the signs — about 1,000 so far and had more on order. One day, an entire 150 order was sold, he said.
“It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “I’m 62 and I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s not even our season. The demand has been extraordinary.”
As a businessman, he doesn’t take sides on issues, he said, but “what’s going on right now concerns everyone. If there’s something we can get behind as simple as this, I’m fine with it. It’s crazy, but it’s hopeful. It really feels like a good thing.”
The Creekside Co-op in Elkins Park is also on board, Thomson said, and 200 signs were given out at a Martin Luther King Day celebration in the Cheltenham School District and some churches and other organizations have become involved.
“What I like about it most is that it reaches across the aisle. Friends who are Republicans and Democrats equally have signs on their front lawns,” she said. “The message itself is human decency.
“I think there are a lot of things we can agree on, and found something sort of magical about it since the beginning,” Thomson said. “It’s my way of starting that — building bridges.
“Some people say they are hateful signs; I don’t understand that,” she said. “I appreciate freedom to have disagreements.”
After President Doanld Trump signed the executive order on immigration, the “requests switched from ‘I want a sign’ to ‘I want to start a campaign,’” she said. “It pushed a lot of people over the edge from feeling they could stay silent.”
Thomson set up a Facebook page, facebook.com/hatehasnohomehereglenside, with information on where the signs are available, which she updates daily. When she posted how to start a campaign, “I got 50 emails that day,” she said. She has also “heard from the parent campaign in Chicago and others.”
The signs can be seen not only in Glenside, but in other neighborhoods in Bucks, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.
The sharp increase in hate crimes after the election “is what pushed me to get involved,” Thomson said. Noting her daughters, ages 3 and 6, point out the yard signs while riding in the car, she said, “It’s nice to teach them the importance of standing up for something you believe in. It’s important to us literally to put a stake in the ground as a value for our family that hate has no home here.”
Thomson acknowledged the campaign has become time-consuming, but termed it “a labor of love.”
“I’m seeing the signs pop up all over,” she said. “It’s heartening for me how much we have in common. When you’re worried about how we will all come together, it doesn’t matter how much time it takes.”
People who were not involved before are now getting involved, she said.
“This is my first step. It’s a process. I’ve never been an activist in any way,” Thomson said. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. I’ve sent starter kits to friends in seven different states. It’s spreading.”
Information on the campaign is available at facebook.com/hatehasnohomehereglenside.