MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. – A “thin blue line” flag donated to a Maryland police station stoked controversy after an official ordered it removed.
James Shelton and his son donated the homemade wooden flag to a Germantown police station. The flag includes a blue stripe—the “thin blue line”—that’s meant to show support for law enforcement. The father and son donated the flag on National First Responders Day as a show of respect.
Police, thankful for the donation, posted a photo about it in Twitter last week and said they would display it in the 5th District station.
However, the move led to backlash from the community. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Friday that the flag will not be displayed publicly.
“The flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others,” Elrich said in a statement. “Under my administration, we are committed to improving police relations with the community and will immediately address any action that stands against our mission.”
Elrich referred to the fact that some members of the community believe the flag minimizes the Black Lives Matter movement meant to call attention to police violence against black residents.
According to the Washington Post, some observers also noted that similar flags were seen alongside Confederate flags at the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. CNN reported that flags with blue lines have been closely associated with the Blue Lives Matter movement, a national organization made up of police officers and supporters that was formed largely as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan waded into the controversy over the weekend, calling for Elrich to reverse his decision.
“A local elected official prohibiting police from displaying a flag given to them by a grateful child is disgraceful,” Hogan tweeted Sunday.
Shelton and his son donated a similar wooden flag with a red line to a local fire station, reported WJLA. That flag was put on display at the firehouse and has not received a similar backlash, according to the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service.