“This is clearly an attempt to suppress the vote.” Vandal steals signs from black men’s health clinic serving as in-person mail-in voting site
Aaron Perry was thrilled that his Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association Men’s Health and Education Center, located on the west side of Madison next to JP Hair Design, Madison’s largest black hair salon, was hosting a in-person postal voting for the Aug. 9 primary election. It was a unique opportunity for the hundreds of black men who come to his center and JP’s Hair Design every day to get involved in the political process.
Last Friday, while hosting a double mail-in voting and in-person vaccination clinic, Perry, president and founder of the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, said a white man deliberately stole the very large voting sign. and the heavy base that holds the sign in front of his building that indicates his center is a polling place. He says the man also removed several vaccination clinic signs from the area and both actions were an intentional attempt to stop people from voting and getting vaccinated.
“This is clearly an attempt to suppress the vote. And an attempt maybe even to scare people,” Perry told Madison365. “But it won’t work. And my thing is that it’s my business…and the fact that this coward comes into my business, and thinks he can do it is disturbing.We understand that there are privileges in our community, but we are also talking about a former police officer very well trained who will not play this game.
“Again, I want him to understand that I am serious – and please don’t let my calm demeanor fool you. That is the message I would have for this individual.
Perry is indeed a former police officer, in addition to being the first insulin-dependent African-American diabetic Ironman triathlete, and a nationally recognized men’s health advocate. His health center on the west side of Madison has been a game-changer for so many black men seeking health resources and information.
Until the vandalism took place last Friday, Perry says all was well at the center.
“It was a great day. We had a good flow of people and the next thing I know I was alerted that all the signage was gone,” Perry recalled. “And they didn’t know what happened to him. And so I ended up going to talk to a couple of the businesses (in the mall) and found out they said there was a white guy who came in and basically took the voting signs . And he walked around and intentionally picked up all the vaccine signs, and then he left the scene.
The main voting panel was huge (pictured, right) with a heavy base, so it was no easy task.
“It was a really big sign to let people know they could vote here. But not only that, he took all of the vaccination clinic signs that were strategically placed in the area and literally placed on city property,” Perry explains. “As soon as it came to my attention, I met with the voting staff, and they eventually contacted the clerk of the courts, who then contacted me and got my opinion on it.
“They indicated they would report to the city attorney, and a report was filed with the FBI for voter tampering,” Perry adds.
Yesterday, four days after the initial vandalism, Perry received a call from Jeff Patterson, owner of JP’s Hair Design.
“He told me he came back to his property – he owns the mall – and he said, ‘Aaron, all these election signs and clinic signs are outside your front door.’ My doctors leave at four so clearly they would have noticed,” Perry says. “So clearly they were returned after 4pm which is around when the mall is very quiet.
“So this is a clear and intentional attempt to disrupt voting and disrupt vaccination clinics,” Perry adds. “And the coward must have felt the weight of justice beating down on him because I posted this on social media. I believe some of that may have contributed to scaring him and bringing the signs.
Perry says he knows who the person is but will let the property owner release that information.
“When bad things happen to good people, what happens to good people? And that’s where I’m at,” he says. “We’re just trying to do good community and public service for our community. And we get slapped in the face with something like that. It was an intentional act. To disrupt the vote and the vaccination clinic…it’s sad.
This isn’t the first time Perry has been harassed since he opened his clinic and he doubts it will be the last. Either way, he says, accountability is coming.
“There were other cowards who messaged me on [Facebook] Messenger. And I asked them, “Why don’t you post this on my Facebook page and stop hiding behind Messenger?” But I have received very racist and very derogatory messages since I started focusing on black men’s health. Before that, when there wasn’t really a clear direction when starting my organization, I never encountered any of this. Now that we have a free clinic focused on black men, we are starting to see the ugliness that exists in our community.