A flag gifted to a police department in Montgomery County, Maryland, has set off a dispute over symbols and race that that has caused several state officials, including the governor, to express outrage and “disgust.”
The debate centered around a donated “thin blue line” flag, which, according to those who defended the flag, serves a symbol of support for police and an acknowledgment of the sacrifices of law enforcement. The homemade flag was given to a police station in Germantown last week. After the police department said it would display the flag, it faced immediate backlash from many who claimed it sent a signal of defiance and even antagonism to the black members of the community it is meant to protect.
On Friday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said that the homemade flag at the center of the debate would not be displayed in a public space after all because of its “divisive” nature.
Some officials responded with anger.
“I’m offended and disgusted,” Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted Sunday in a call for Elrich to reverse his decision. “To outlaw these American flags from being hung in county buildings by law enforcement officers is outrageous and unconscionable.”
For others, though, the flag serves as a more pointed message of opposition to Black Lives Matter and any pushback against police violence toward black people.
“The flag provides a symbol of support to some, but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others,” Elrich said in his 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.”
In particular, many in the community who opposed the flag pointed to its use (along with the Confederate battle flag) by white supremacists at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Maryland Del. Gabriel Acevero agreed with Elrich’s decision, calling the flag “an affront to the #BlackLivesMatter protests that I & others were a part of.” He added: “Stop pandering & focus on police reform!”