SMITHTOWN, NY – The Smithtown Fire Department will be keeping the Thin Blue Line flag flying on its rescue truck after a decision to remove the flag came under fire from residents.
About a dozen Long Island residents swarmed a Smithtown street corner waving flags and chanting their support for police and firefighters following the announcement that the Thin Blue Line flag was back on the apparatus.
Smithtown Fire Department Returns ‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag To Truck https://t.co/Xj6jhW97iu
— Montgomery Granger (@mjgranger1) February 28, 2021
The fire department had removed the flag Wednesday following a complaint filed by a single community member. The department pulled the flag down earlier this week because of the complaint, according to Smithtown Fire Department Public Information Officer Rick Torre.
Smithtown Fire Chief Kevin Fitzpatrick said the decision to remove the flag was not an easy one:
“It was a tough decision to take it off actually, and our support of law enforcement does not waver, not even a little bit. We did receive a complaint from someone … we discussed it and we thought our best course of action would be to remove the flag.”
TAKEN DOWN: A community member complaint led to the removal of the Thin Blue Line flag from the Smithtown Fire Department and its vehicles.https://t.co/8EirGLlYa8
— News12LI (@News12LI) February 25, 2021
The fire department issued a statement regarding the removal of the flag:
“In response to this notification the issue was discussed, and it was determined that the best course of action for all parties involved was to have the flag replaced with an American Flag.
This was a difficult decision to make as our steadfast support of our law enforcement partners has not changed.
While we understand that this garners strong feelings on both sides of our community, we wish to focus on the life and property protection we provide to the residents of Smithtown.”
The department reversed its decision to remove the flag from one of its trucks after “overwhelming community outreach.” https://t.co/TjE0B9EAwp
— Newsday (@Newsday) February 27, 2021
Community members expressed anger and disappointment that the flag was removed because of one person’s complaint. Many citizens expressed their displeasure through social media. One person tweeted the complainant should be banned from receiving police services:
”That community member should be blacklisted from ever receiving police service”
That community member should be black listed from ever receiving police service
— Conrad Oak 🇺🇲🚨🇺🇲 (@DCS104547) February 25, 2021
Another citizen tweeted that the issue was about free speech
“Since it is the police, who secure the scenes at all of the calls for violence in progress, fire departments should be able to show some support. This s*** is getting stupid. Pretty soon nobody will be entitled to an opinion or free speech.”
Since it is the police, who secure the scenes at all of the calls for violence in progress, fire department’s should be able to show some support. This s*** is getting stupid. Pretty soon nobody will be entitled to an opinion or free speech.
— Dave C (@dave3825us) February 25, 2021
On Friday, the Board of Fire Commissioners and Smithtown Chiefs Office decided the flag shout be returned to the truck, citing “overwhelming community outreach.” The fire department issued a statement regarding the controversy:
“Newsday had contacted our organization regarding a complaint levied by a community member who felt the blue line flag on our apparatus was offensive. While the initial decision to remove this flag was a difficult one, it was done in the ‘interest of harmony’ in order to err on the side of caution.
“But in response to receiving hundreds of comments from concerned residents who were offended by its removal, we have determined the best course of action is to return the flag to our Rescue Truck.”
According to the department, the flag was originally placed on the rescue truck on December 20, 2014 to honor two NYPD officers killed in the line of duty. Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were assassinated while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn while on-duty.
The department statement said the flag also expressed their support for law enforcement:
“Today, we wish to note that our steadfast support of law enforcement has not changed and are proud we will continue to fly the blue line flag on our apparatus. The flag will be reinstalled on its fire apparatus [Friday] and will be flown with pride, with its original intention and meaning in mind, where it will remain.”
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Revealed: The ‘racist imagery’ that the NAACP says San Diego Fire-Rescue is using to create a ‘hostile environment’
January 20, 2021
SAN DIEGO, CA – On Monday, The NAACP San Diego Chapter sent a letter to elected officials calling for policies to address what they called “the toxicity” in the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s culture. The association pointed to photographs it received as evidence of racist symbols in the fire department.
Using the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol as an example, NAACP President Francine Maxwell wrote in the letter that the fire department has openly displayed images of hate. She said such images and symbols cannot be ignored, claiming the Capitol insurrectionists’ use of similar symbols prior to the attack should have been a warning.
NAACP urges culture changes within San Diego Fire-Rescue https://t.co/aOibVm9aV5
— FireandAviation TV (@FireandAviation) January 20, 2021
In the letter addressed to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and copied to nine council members, Maxwell wrote:
“In light of the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol, it should be clear to all that the words and symbols of the alt-right and white supremacists are not merely empty threats and crackpot grumbling. Instead, they are clearly an indicator of violence and hate-crime waiting to happen.
“And yet, the symbols embraced by this movement are tolerated, and in some cases explicitly endorsed and permitted, by San Diego Fire-Rescue on equipment and at firehouses.”
NAACP says #SanDiego Fire-Rescue Dept. needs to change its culture https://t.co/xMH0dJmRlT via @CBS8 // Yet another example of institutional #racism and sexism in an emergency services department. #NotAmericasFinestCity #
— Debbie Terry (@debbie858) January 20, 2021
The NAACP was referring to photographs of items allegedly related to the San Diego Fire-Rescue, which the association said were racist symbols and images. The NAACP included a Thin Blue Line Flag on a station bay door as one of the racist symbols.
The letter said that the Thin Blue Line flag symbolizes an “us” vs “them” narrative, and symbolized a division between blacks and whites. She claimed the flag represented that law enforcement views themselves as “us” and the black community as “them.”
“While we understand that the ostensible purpose of this symbol is to honor the risk and sacrifice of peace officers in the line of duty, it has been taken up by white supremacists and is thus tainted.
“Its underlying message is not one of unity, but of division; peace officers as a ‘thin blue line’ protecting ‘us’ from ‘them.’ We can see from the different treatment of the insurrectionists and Black Lives Matter protestors who are most often perceived as ‘us’ and ‘them.’
“In a move with which we disagree, this symbol was explicitly permitted by the department, albeit as a temporary measure only. It has remained on display long past the permitted time, and needs to be removed.”
— CBS News 8 (@CBS8) July 29, 2017
Law enforcement nationwide displays the Thin Blue Line Flag to honor fallen officers. The flag on the fire station door was in honor of San Diego Police Officer J.D. DeGuzman.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Officer DeGuzman was shot and killed on July 28, 2016, while conducting a subject stop. His partner was shot in the neck, but survived. His partner returned fire, wounding the killer, who was captured nearby.
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Author: Scott A. Davis