Brad Belcher was upset that people in his hometown of Marion, Ohio (north of Columbus) weren’t talking about the rampant heroin/opiate addiction in their midst.
Home to President Warren G. Harding, the rural town of Marion, like much of Ohio, has been hammered by departing jobs and a general malaise of defeatism and inertia, Belcher told me.
Heroin (in the form of courts, jail, the underground economy, etc) has taken the place in the economy of a lot of manufacturing and other businesses that for decades kept the town tight and townspeople concerned for each other. (Marion was once home to Marion Power Shovel, which once employed 3200 people making earth moving and mining equipment. It closed in the late 1990s.)
Now people were dying. Dope was everywhere.
So to ignite discussion about all this, Belcher printed 800 signs and late one night put them up all over town: in front of Walgreens, outside cornfields, in the wealthy neighborhoods, along the retails strips.
He was caught in the act by three officers of the law just as he was about to put them around city hall and downtown.
They took down most of the signs, but his little bit of guerrilla political theater — a la Abbie Hoffman — was taken up online and in social media.
Belcher, a former addict himself, became a cause celebre.
The signs made the topic okay to talk about, he says. Before people were mortified to admit they had addicts in their families.
The town, he says, is now at least attending to the problem it avoided. Churches are involved. Local folks recently organized a heroin march. The cops arrest more heroin dealers than ever before. People talk openly about what they once kept silent. But the town doesn’t have any drug treatment facilities — besides its jail, that is, which serves as de facto center for detoxifying from heroin.