Thin Blue Line flag mural that students painted is removed by school officials: ‘That flag is racist’

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TAUNTON, MA- The Thin Blue Line flag mural that students painted outside of the school resource officers’ (SRO) office at Taunton High School has been replaced at the demand of protesters who deemed the mural racist.

The mural was removed just one month after a Taunton police officer died and according to reports, SROs and students worked together in painting the mural on the “Cops Corner” wall, which is located in the SRO “study buddy” area. The mural was painted during the 2018-2019 school year.

The collaboration was launched following the deaths of Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon and Weymouth Police Officer Michael Chesna. Both officers were killed in the ling of duty in separate attacks in 2018.

The “study buddy” area, where the mural is located, is a place where students come to study and to hang out with their friends. In January of this year, someone started a petition demanding that the “pro-police” memorial mural be removed from the school. 

Reportedly, those supporting the petition denounced the Thin Blue Line glad, saying it has been flown at white supremacists rallies and that it opposes the Black Lives Matter movement. Taunton Diversity Network Director April Cabrera Funches said in a statemtent:

“What we’ve heard from the students, either present students and even former students, is that they don’t want the flag to be there, that it has a negative vibe and they think it should be removed.”

She added:

“The negative vibe is not the support of the police. We fully support the police department and the work that they do. But, lately that flag has been used to really promote and support white supremacy.”

She continued:

“We do want to see better police relations with students. We just think that if you’re going to put something up there, put the American flag.”

Critics allege that the Thin Blue Line flag was created in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the Thin Blue Line flag was created long before the Black Lives Matter movement and the term “thin blue line” has been popular with law enforcement officers since the 1950s.

Those in opposition to the petition that resulted in the removal of the mural, argued that the effort to remove the symbol was part of “cancel culture.” They further argued that the Thin Blue Line flag is intended to honor the sacrifices law enforcement officers make and has nothing to do with race.

Those supporting the Thin Blue Line flag mural at Taunton High School began circulating a petition of their own after the controversy erupted. The opposing petition garnered hundreds of signatures.

Students, SROs, administrators, and others met four times since the controversy first erupted. On Saturday, February 20th, a pro-flag rally was held and met with a counter-protest by Black Lives Matter. 

The Thin Blue Line mural has since been replaced with one showing an American Flag and a quote from National Guard Sergeant William Carney, the first black soldier to receive the Medal of Honor. The text on the new mural reads:

“I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground.”

The Taunton Daily Gazette said that Taunton Public Schools Superintendent John Cabral and the Taunton Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to when the decision was made to replace the original mural. 

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Group of kids at high school trying to get Thin Blue Line flag removed – but other students are now fighting back

February 2nd, 2021

WEYMOUTH, MA – There are currently two petitions circulating with respect to the allowance of the thin blue line symbol at a Massachusetts high school, which said petitions happen to be at odds with each other.

One of the petitions is proclaiming that the symbol is tantamount to supporting a brutally racist institution; while the other petition is proclaiming that the thin blue line symbol is far from derogatory or offensive – and should remain in the school.

Bodhi Kolwaite is a senior at Weymouth High School, and also the creator behind the petition to have the thin blue line symbol removed from the high school:

“I feel overwhelming disgust, overwhelming anger and frustration at the fact that this is everywhere in our school.”

“There are teachers and nurses with masks of the flag, in teachers’ classrooms with the flag and, most notably, the Weymouth High School football team runs out every game with a gigantic flag.”

Tensions and divided opinions with regard to the thin blue line symbol are not unique to this Massachusetts high school, as the topic has been the source of ongoing rhetoric proclaiming that the thin blue line is a problematic symbol that aims to denigrate black and brown individuals.

Also, what happens to be ironic in all this, is that it was the Weymouth Police that had helped locate and recover Kolwaite days later when he went missing on March 9th of 2019. 

Luke Seto, a junior at Weymouth High School who assisted Kolwaite in drafting this petition to have the thin blue line symbol removed from the school, also commented on the matter.

Seto ventured to attribute allegations of “hate” and “racism” as being emblematic of the thin blue line symbol:

“You have a student body of people of color, minorities, saying we feel uncomfortable by this. There are people out in the world getting killed by the very police force that are supposed to protect them.”

“Whether you like it or not, it’s a symbol of hate, fear, intimidation. It represents corruption, racism, oppression. Whether you like it or not, it’s scaring students. People don’t feel safe in their own schools.”

The summary of understanding presented by Seto nearly ventures into what could be construed as hyperbolic, but the student is apparently steadfast in these convictions with respect to how he digests the symbology behind the thin blue line.

However, much like many others, Seto is conflating what the thin blue line actually “represents” with what he perceives it to mean.

In order for a symbol to represent something traumatic, hateful or fear-inducing, then the symbol literally has to have been crafted with the intent on arousing those specific emotions.

Yet, in order to digest or perceive something (like a symbol) as negative, when it’s genuinely not, then it requires the individual to attribute unrelated circumstances or experiences to that very something.

And it seems as though the school’s heavy investment into the thin blue line symbol pertains to an officer that was killed in the line of duty, Sgt. Michael Chesna, back in 2018 in Weymouth.

Ryan Lindblom, a junior at Weymouth High School, was the student behind the petition aiming to keep the thin blue line symbol within the school:

“I just don’t see their argument against not liking police.”

Lindblom is aware that sometimes the thin blue line symbol gets mixed up with with being some sort of political statement, which the student says couldn’t be further from reality:

“Law enforcement isn’t politics. Politics is presidents, mayors, senators, it’s all that. Police don’t get voted to do that job, [they’re] selected to do that job and they support what you do in the town.”

Currently the petition aiming to have the thin blue line symbol removed from the school is sitting slightly under 3,000 signatures as of January 31st, whereas the petition aiming to keep the symbol within the high school is sitting roughly 300 signatures shy of 9,000.

This pro-police teen stated that he’d been getting a lot of support from people within his community as well as the high school football team:

“I had a coach who texted me and said, ‘this means a lot, this was really good of you, I wish I could have done this, but at least you spoke up and did something about it’… I’ll always support [police] because they’ve never done any wrong to me.”

Superintendent of Weymouth Schools Dr. Jennifer Curtis-Whipple is currently aware of both petitions that have been making the rounds online, and offered the following statement regarding the dichotomy between the two positions:

“We were recently made aware of student petitions being circulated in the community regarding expressive speech and symbolism. We understand the differing perspectives surrounding modern social topics and the resulting profound emotions and feelings.”

“We will continue to have conversations around these complex issues. We are committed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all of our students and staff in the Weymouth School District.”

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This is just one of many recent controversies over the thin blue line symbol. 

We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported on how a police chief opted to have the symbol removed from the police station in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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MADISON, WI – After essentially caving to pressure brought on by the local community, the University of Wisconsin-Madison police chief has banned any imagery of the thin blue line while officers are at work.

From what the police chief says, this was not a decision reached easily but she eventually folded under the intense scrutiny that the thin blue line symbol has endured.

In an email sent out by Chief Kristen Roman earlier in January, she proclaimed that the thin blue line flag and imagery had effectively been “co-opted” by individuals who host “hateful ideologies”.

And whether the officers agree with the public perception of the symbol or not, the image is causing some strain between that police department and the community.

From what Chief Roman wrote in the email, she’s quite cognizant of the fact that this decision may upset some of the officers and expressed empathy in those likely boiling emotions:

“I understand that this decision may cause emotional responses, even anger from some. I, too, feel hurt and disappointed as we confront our current reality. I know this is hard. I know this issue is complicated.”

The way that the banning of the imagery will work is that displays of the thin blue line to include flags, pins, bracelets, notebooks, coffee mugs and pretty much anything else that can host the image are banned from the workplace.

However, there are some minute exceptions – which are officers hosting tattoos of the thin blue line that are visible and certain occasions such as an officer’s funeral.

While the thin blue line is an image that represents the balance that police officers represent in society, namely being the barrier between civility and chaos, the flag has been getting labeled as some sort of symbol tantamount to white nationalism or supremacy.

As ridiculous as that may sound, the allegation that the thin blue line is somehow a symbol against black Americans has been a pretty common occurrence over the past year.

With protests staged by the like of BLM or Antifa that host anti-police sentiments, typically one could see some thin blue line flags hoisted by counter demonstrators who are there to support police officers.

It’s been the aforementioned displays that have essentially created the fodder for the narrative that the thin blue line is some sort of nefarious dog whistle used to rally folks who are secretly racist.

Keep in mind, it’s not even remotely close to what the thin blue line means or represents – but the negative connotation is what is being peddled, repeated, and instilled into the modern public discourse.

And in Chief Roman’s email she even pointed out that she did her best to explain to those critical of the thin blue line that the symbol does not represent anything negative or hateful, but wrote her efforts, “continue[d] to fall short in ways I can’t simply ignore.”

In short, Chief Roman explained that her efforts were essentially unfruitful – because no matter how much she explained what the symbol means, she was catching flack and people were continuing to allege that the thin blue line means something derogatory toward certain sects of the populace.

When closing the email, Chief Roman reminded officers that with being a police officer, sometimes one has to set aside the “investment in a symbol” and the community outrage over said symbol “alienates” the general public from the police:

“At the end of the day, we have dedicated ourselves to a profession that demands service above self. As such, relevant community concerns, perceptions, and fears necessarily outweigh our shared professional investment in a symbol that presently separates and alienates us from those we have promised to serve.”

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