By Dawn Perlmutter
This week Anti-ICE protesters demonstrating outside of an ICE facility in Aurora, Colorado pulled down the American flag and replaced it with the Flag of Mexico. They also took down the Blue Lives Matter flag, spray painted it with the words “Abolish ICE” then raised the flag upside down on a pole next to the Mexican flag. The demonstration was part of a nationwide protest advertised as “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps. The symbolism of the vandalism is clearly anti-American, anti-government, anti-police and pro-open borders. Referring to ICE facilities as concentration camps is a calculated propaganda operation to characterize CBP, ICE and police officers as Nazis and paint the Blue Lives Matter flag as a symbol of white supremacy.
This recent desecration of the Blue Lives Matter flag is part of an ongoing campaign to designate the flag as a symbol of racism. Opponents have made it clear that they want it banned from public buildings. Recent debates over the flag’s use have resulted in petitions to ban the flag, flags being burned at demonstrations and dozens of incidents of vandalism and theft, including several cases where they were stolen from fallen officer memorials.
Blue Lives Matter flags are used by law enforcement officers as a symbol of service, sacrifice and solidarity. They are displayed in commemoration of officers killed in the line of duty and have become popular with the public to show their support for law enforcement and fallen officers. The Blue Lives Matter flag is a variation of the Thin Blue Line flag, a thin blue line in the center of a black field, which symbolizes the position of law enforcement in society as a barrier between order and chaos, between anarchy and a civilized society. The black background was designed as a reminder of fallen brothers and sisters.
Accusations that the BLM flag is a symbol of racism are based on complaints from anti-police organizations and its use in some demonstrations. During protests of officer involved shootings that the public deemed racially motivated, counter-protesters carried the flag to show support for police. The end result? Protesters called it a racist symbol. When white nationalist groups used the flag to symbolize support for police, particularly their display at the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, the flag’s symbolism became associated with racism and white supremacy.
Several anti-police organizations including ANTIFA, Copwatch and Black Lives Matter consider the Blue Lives Matter flag to be racist and a desecration of the American flag. The Blue Lives Matter movement is viewed by many members of the Black Lives Matter movement as a direct attempt by law enforcement to undermine their movement. Black Lives Matter members have referred to the flag as a terrorist symbol, a new version of the Confederate flag and repackaged Nazi propaganda. Copwatch chapters have burned the flag at protests and desecrated it in front of municipal buildings. ANTIFA designated the thin blue line flag a white supremacist fascist symbol.
When 22-year-old Officer Natalie Corona was killed in the line of duty on January 10, 2019, a photo of her waving the Thin Blue Line flag sparked a social media controversy about the flag. UC Davis students suggested that the photo of the slain officer was racist and offensive and demanded that people stop circulating the image. They wrote on their Facebook page that, “The flag is blatantly anti-Black and disrespectful. We see it necessary to call-out all community members who continue to post and disseminate images of the Blue Lives Matter flag online. We would like to directly address that this flag represents an attempt by law enforcement to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement.”
On their Facebook page Black Lives Matter Sacramento (BLMS) had the audacity to question why Officer Corona was being regarded as a hero, highlighted shootings by police officers and called Blue Lives Matter “repackaged Nazi propaganda”. They posted what appeared to be a call to steal the flags, “We are taking all donations of Blue Lives Matter flags acquired on the street (not bought).” Shortly after the posting, the Thin Blue Line flag that was hung inside a memorial near the site of the shooting death of Officer Corona was stolen… twice in two days… until Davis officers volunteered to stand guard by the memorial. BLMS is the same group that crashed the wedding of an officer after his name was unofficially disclosed as taking part in a fatal officer involved shooting.
A Boston Antifa group included the Thin Blue Line and BLM flags on a poster identifying white nationalist and neo-Nazi symbols. The poster designating Thin Blue Line flags as hate symbols were widely disseminated on social media, publicly displayed and distributed at protests targeting officers. During the August 19 rally, individuals threw bottles of urine, rocks, glass bottles and other harmful projectiles at Boston Police officers. Antifa activists previously burned BLM flags at demonstrations.
Similar to campaigns against other historical symbols such as the Confederate flag, Confederate statues, Columbus Day and saluting the American flag, the campaign to designate the Blue Lives Matter flag as racist is intensifying. In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the theft and vandalism of Blue Lives Matter flags. Flags have been stolen and vandalized in Lynbrook, NY, Staten Island, NY, St. Louis, MO, Portland, OR and many other small towns and cities across the country. Flags were stolen from fallen officer memorials in Davis, California; Grove City, Ohio; Milton, Delaware; Free Soil Township, Michigan and other towns. Car decals and other items depicting the flag symbol have also been targeted. The increase has been so widespread a patriotic apparel company started offering a vandalism warranty on all their flags replacing stolen or vandalized flags for free.
Businesses were targeted by threats and vandalism in St. Louis after they flew Thin Blue Line flags outside their stores. One sign was posted on a storefront that read, “Pig supporters not welcome. Flag goes down or YOU go down. Another nearby business had their flag stolen and their front window smashed in. A Florida woman was ordered to remove her Blue Lives Matter flag from her home after the homeowner’s association received a complaint about the flag being racist and offensive to Black Lives Matter.
In Portland, Oregon during a free speech rally, Antifa demonstrators vandalized a man’s truck, ripped American and Thin Blue Line Flags from his vehicle and burned them in the streets. Protesters burned the Leon Valley, Texas Police Department’s Thin Blue Line flag and then taunted officers with their desecrated flag by waving it and wiping their feet on it. United Against Police Terror (UAPTSD) a San Diego cop watch organization, posted a video on YouTube titled: Fourth of July | Blue Line Gang Flag Burning.
Accusations of the flag as a symbol of racism have resulted in the removal of the flag from the Multnomah County, Oregon Courthouse; Braintree, Massachusetts High School; Connecticut State Capitol; Moreno Valley Station Fire engine and others. In 2017 J. Hernandez started a petition on change.org to ban the Thin Blue Line flag from police uniforms, vehicles, and buildings. In April, a county in Oregon agreed to pay $100,000 to an employee who sued alleging she was harassed after asking that a Blue Lives Matter flag not be displayed in the office. Karimah Guion-Pledgure said in her lawsuit against Multnomah County that the flag demeans the Black Lives Matter movement. She wrote in the complaint, “The Black Lives Matter movement was started to call attention to the disproportionate policing and killing of Black people by law enforcement,” “The ‘Blue Lives Matter’ sign co-opts that racial justice movement’s slogan, repurposes it to shift focus to law enforcement — a chosen profession, not a racial identity — and thus denigrates, dilutes, and demeans the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.” The carefully chosen language of identity politics combined with allegations of discrimination scares government officials into surrendering free speech at the expense of police officers.
Throughout history regime change always begins and ends with the destruction and removal of symbols. Designating the Blue Lives Matter flag as a symbol of racism is an information operation strategy calculated to incite protests, petitions, lawsuits, and appeasement, eventually leading to government prohibitions on displaying the Blue Lives Matter flag. Abolishing the symbol is a proven strategy to abolish what it stands for.
Dawn Perlmutter, Director of the Symbol Intelligence Group, is a subject matter expert in the areas of symbols, symbolic methodologies, atypical homicide and ritualistic crimes. She routinely provides law enforcement agencies with specialized information to assist in operations, investigation and analysis. She consults and trains law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, has advised police departments and prosecutors’ offices on numerous cases of ritual homicide and presents expert witness testimony on ritualistic crimes.
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