State House and Senate pass bill that prohibits HOAs from banning variety of signage, including Thin Blue Line flags

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DENVER, CO- On Tuesday, June 1st, the Colorado Senate followed the House’s lead and passed a bill that would prevent homeowners’ associations (HOA) in the state from banning a wide variety of signage on private property, including Thin Blue Line flags. 

According to reports, HB21-1310, prohibits HOAs from being able to stop people from flying flags or political signs, with a few exceptions. The legislation reads, in part:

“The bill simplifies and broadens these protections, requiring an HOA to permit the display of any flag or sign at any time, subject only to reasonable content-neutral limitations such as the numbers, size, or placement of the flags or signs.”

The bill, which has been entitled, “Homeowners Association Regulation of Flags and Signs,” states that current law limits the application of architectural and landscaping regulations of common interest communities, also known as HOAs, so as to require that they allow displays of the American flag, service flags such as the “blue star” and “gold star” flags, and political signs, subject to specific statutory criteria.

HB21-1310, which is sponsored by Representative Lisa Cutter and Senator Robert Rodriquez, is meant to simplify and broaden those protections. The Colorado Senate passed the bull on Tuesday, June 1st. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein praised the bill. Silverstein said:

“The bill will be a major step forward to advance the free-speech rights of the thousands of Coloradans who live in HOA-controlled communities.”

Silverstein added that the provisions in the bill make sense to him and that the language in the bill clearly states that HOAs cannot prohibit signs and flags and that they cannot regulate them on the basis for their message or symbolic content. He stated:

“The bill does provide that HOAs can adopt reasonable, content-neutral regulations over the number and size of signs and maybe something about their placement. But, no longer will HOAs be able to say, ‘No social justice signs, no Black Lives Matter signs, no Thin Blue Line flags.”

While HOA bans on Black Lives Matter (BLM) signs got the most publicity locally, Silverstein emphasized that the legislation does not discriminate on the basis of politics. He said:

“One of the people who testified last week at a House committee was a former police officer who got in touch with us. He has flown a Thin Blue Line flag for the past four years and he put it up after the shooting in Boulder at a King Soopers where an officer died in the line of duty.”

He continued:

“And afterward, he got a letter from his HOA telling him he had to take it down. He’s one of the five or six dozen people who contacted the ACLU about this issue over the last several months and he testified about his experience, why he flies that flag, and why he believes he should have the right to fly that flag and if the bill is signed into law, he’ll be able to do that again.”

Silverstein stated that plenty of other people will see a benefit to this bill as well. He cited a recent Denver Post report that:

“At least 60 percent of Colorado homes are in HOA-controlled communities and most of them have restrictions on signs and flags. So, there are thousands of people who have been silenced by these rules and this bill will end that silence.”

Rep. Cutter, a Jefferson County Democrat, said in a statement:

“I just feel strongly if you have a principle, there’s no buts and ands and ifs. And free speech is an important and enshrined right for Americans.”

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Fire Department reverses decision to remove Thin Blue Line flag following ‘overwhelming’ community outcry

March 3rd, 2021

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.

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.”

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.”

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”

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

Thin Blue Line Flag - NAACAP Press Release photo
Thin Blue Line Flag – NAACAP Press Release photo

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.”

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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