Town administrator: Thin Blue Line flags will be removed from fire apparatus within a couple of days

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July 29, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer

During a remote 1-1/2-hour discussion last night centering around correspondence received by the Selectmen's office regarding Thin Blue Line flags on Hingham fire trucks, several participants pressured town officials to have them removed as soon as possible in accordance with a directive from the board, because only certain flags are allowed on town property or assets. There were about 80 participants.

As background, in response to a complaint received in an email, the Hingham Selectmen's office recently issued the directive.

However, in a Facebook post by the Hingham Firefighters Local 2398 on Monday, Union President Lt. Chris Melanson stated that the union's "support for our brothers and sisters in blue [by displaying the flags] is unwavering. The flags have continued to fly with honor every day. They will have to be removed by someone other than a member of this union."

Social media posts

This discussion followed days of divisive social media posts on both sides of the issue and fell on the same day as a "Backs the Blue" rally on the front lawn of Town Hall that afternoon.

Another "Back the Blue" Rally is planned at Powers Field in Hingham Centre for Friday, July 31, at 5 p.m.

Selectmen Chair Mary Power expressed concern about the nature of recent social media comments. "Divisiveness gets in the way of listening and understanding and finding a path forward," she said.

While all the speakers said they support the Hingham police and fire departments, several were adamant that the flags should be taken down as soon as possible, and most expressed support for the Selectmen's decision to have the flags removed.

In response, Town Administrator Tom Mayo said that town officials are "working on a respectful approach to ensure removal is complete. We're working with fire and police personnel to do this carefully and respectfully so we can move forward as a community."

Underlying meaning

In addition to the town’s long-standing practice of limiting flag displays on town property to the flag of the United States of America, the flag of the Commonwealth, the Town of Hingham flag, the POW MIA flag, a flag in memory of veterans of World War I, as well as flags flown to commemorate Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15th of each year, there's a concern about potential underlying meanings the flag might have for some people apart from the meaning others say relates solely to support for law enforcement workers and the sacrifices they make.

"The Thin Blue Line flag has been co-opted by white supremacists, and they have no place on the town's fire trucks," said Andrew Turner.

Hingham Unity Council member Katie Sutton supports the decision to remove the flags. At the same time,  she said she "recognizes the service of our police and fire departments" and also realizes that the Thin Blue Flag means different things to different people. "I want to live in a community where people feel safe," she said.

Ed Johnson said he's the son of a law enforcement officer who died on the job in 1972. "I hope we can still find a way to honor our fallen police officers," he said.

Selectmen sign statement

Selectman Joseph Fisher, the board's liaison to the police department, read the two-page statement at the beginning of the meeting, and Selectmen Mary Power and William Ramsey also asked to sign it.

Lisa Shetty said she noticed a Hingham fire truck driving past Town Hall "multiple times" with the Thin Blue and American flags on the apparatus. "Why were they allowed to engage in a political rally?"

Mayo said the town will "look into this occurrence to see if any policies have been violated and take appropriate action" if necessary. "We will do so in a respectful manner," he said.

When asked again at the end of the meeting by a participant when the flags will be removed from the fire trucks, Mayo said, "within a couple of days." He also said that recent conversations with police and fire personnel were successful.

Patience is needed

After fielding several related questions and comments, Power asked "for everyone's indulgence and patience to allow Tom Mayo and [Fire Chief] Steve Murphy to [work out a way to] do that."

Police Chief Glenn Olsson talked about the toll these and other issues are taking on Hingham Police Department officers. "We're trying to figure out where we stand and why we are being held responsible for something that didn't happen in Massachusetts {referring to the George Floyd murder]. Our officers are basically worn out and confused."

Olsson went on to say he thinks what's needed is "to concentrate on the positive, break down barriers, and communicate." He expressed appreciation for the many emails of support he's received recently. "We have some of the best officers out there," he said.

Power said there will be future discussions geared toward setting a townwide policy related to which flags can be flown on town property, including a formal process through which flag-flying requests could be evaluated. Such a policy would not relate to private property. "I think it's important to act consistently," she said.

In ending the discussion, Power said the comments made last night "show a lot of confidence in our public safety leadership. There's a lot of common ground there."

14 thoughts on “Town administrator: Thin Blue Line flags will be removed from fire apparatus within a couple of days”

  1. The town of hingham should be disgusted in themselves. What an absolute disgrace to the hero’s that fight for our safety and freedom everyday. Blue lives matter and black lives matter. But the fact that you cave to a small difference in opinion, some high schoolers that can’t even vote, is disturbing. In no way is a blue lives matter flag a political statement. Might as well spit on Chesnas grave while you are at it.

  2. Hingham is a town of around 22,000 people. There are varying stances on this issue. However, “80” people in a 1 1/2 hour closed door meeting may not statistically represent the sentiment of the remaining 21,920 or so residents in the community. Lets find a solution that is respectful and representative to where everyone stands. Town Vote anyone??

  3. Yes, let the town vote! Anything less than a full town vote on this issue is disrespectful to Hingham’s dedicated first responders and dishonors their simple desire to honor the fallen. Let the town vote!

  4. The town voted when it elected the Board of Selectmen. The town already has a policy in place about what flags can be flown on town property, and the Board is applying that policy consistently by requiring removal of the thin blue line flag. Unfortunately, as stated in the article, that same flag has been co-opted by racists trying to blur, conflate, and inflame the Black Lives Matter as an anti-police movement. Rather, Black Lives Matter is a civil rights/human rights movement.
    The Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator made the correct decision. Those who want to believe that the decision represents disrespect for our police force or firefighters failed to read or comprehend the Board’s statement that said exactly the opposite.

    • Please stop the lunacy that is infecting this great country! Please get out and vote in November for a sane, rational and reasonable future.

  5. Dear Jennifer, How misinformed you are. “PIGS IN A BLANKET FRY EM LIKE BACON, “DEFUND THE POLICE” or “ACAB” (all cops are bastards) are just a few of “Black Lives Matter” chants or slogans that are chanted or spray painted on thousands of building’s across this country. The “Thin Blue Line Flag” has always been a symbol of respect for the sacrifices our law enforcement personnel have given us. For you to say that “that same flag has been co-opted by racists” is asinine. What if these same racist groups co-opted the stars and stripes as some have? Would you also call it a racist symbol? I bet you would in a heart beat. BTW, The Thin Blue Line has been around since before 1922. A lot longer than BLM. Your ignorance to absorb whatever vile disinformation on social media that’s related to the thin blue line flag not only proves your ignorance, but blatantly displays your bias. I hope that someday you never have a reason to call the police for help, but rest assure if you do they would be the first one’s to put their lives on the line for you not matter what color you are. Have a safe and blessed life.

  6. Jennifer, thank you for making my point for me. A very very small minority of Hingham citizens have determined that a 100 year old flag that traditionally has honored fallen first responders is now deemed connected to racism. By appeasing this small group a precedent is being set. What in town will be deemed offensive, co-opted or somehow connected to racism next? Through six degrees of separation that could apply to just about anything in town these days. Those offended now, will find more that somehow offends them (likely soon) and the cycle will unfortunately begin again.

  7. The decision to reassign meaning to a memorial is a problem. What if one person was offended by all the Schools flying rainbow flags at their kids schools without a parent survey first. This also exemplifies the lack of coherence with the supposed existing town “flag policy”. This town’s decision to remove a tribute to a fallen local hero is Demoralizing. It appears that Hingham’s leadership may be financially wealthy, but morally bankrupt.

  8. I hope the residents of Hingham that got butthurt by the flags do not visit the Cape. We have those flags everywhere. We Support our local law enforcement community here. #stayhome

  9. Just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for not publishing my letter. Kinda looks like you are as gutless as town selectmen.


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