A Maryland police department has been told not to display a "thin blue line" flag due to its reported association with racism and police brutality, Washington's WUSA-TV reports. Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he is "disgusted" and "outraged" about the situation.
The situation appears to date back to October 28, which was National First Responders Day. Germantown residents James Shelton and his son Forrest gifted their police and fire departments with wooden American flags in honor of the day. Two of those flags weren't the American flag as such, but rather the essence of the flag, with red and white colors rendered in black. On one, one of the horizontal bars was red, a symbol sometimes used by firefighters. Another of the flags replaced the red bar with a blue one; that flag is sometimes referred to as the "thin blue line" flag because one of the blue line. Blue is a color often associated with police uniforms.
The red flag gifted to the Fifth District Police Station in Germantown does not seem to have caused any issues. However, the one given to the Montgomery County 5th District police station caused an incident that caught the attention of the state's politicians, as well as the national media.
When the department posted a picture of the flag on social media, several responders noted that the flag has some negative connotations. For example, some pointed out that it was used by white supremacist protesters during the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Others pointed out that the flag allegedly represents the "Blue Lives Matter" movement, which critics say is itself a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich told the police station not to display the flag. In a statement, the department said that it will comply.
"The flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others. Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th District nor in any public space within the Police Department."Now, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has weighed in. In a statement, Hogan railed against the notion that the flag deserves to be banned.
"It is simply not appropriate or acceptable for the county executive to arbitrarily ban police officers from displaying a Thin Blue Line flag that was donated to them by a young boy in honor of National First Responders Day," he said.
As for the family that donated the flags, Captain Tom Jordan said that it's regrettable that their kind gesture has become the center of a negative story.
"They're good people," he said.