“Thin blue line” flags were removed Thursday from Hingham fire trucks after days of controversy over whether the flags simply salute police officers or have a more divisive political message.
Members of Hingham Firefighters Local 2393 gathered at Hingham Fire Station 1 at 7:30 a.m. to remove the flags alongside police from Hingham and Weymouth and other emergency personnel, the union said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
“We were aware of an impending order to remove the flags from the apparatus that would be given to members on duty,” the union said. “We did not want to risk the chance of having these flags removed from the trucks in a disrespectful manner.”
The flags, black and white versions of the American flag with a blue stripe across the middle to represent police, have long been used to honor officers killed in the line of duty. But amid recent protests against systemic racism in law enforcement, some have used the flags as a sign of support for police and opposition to demands for change.
Town officials had ordered the flags taken down after a citizen complaint. The Hingham Board of Selectmen said the town has a longstanding practice of flying only the flags of the nation, the state, the town, and flags recognizing veterans and Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Hingham firefighters placed the “thin blue line” flags on department vehicles this month in tribute to Weymouth police Sergeant Michael Chesna, who was shot and killed by a fleeing suspect two years ago, according to an earlier Facebook post signed by Lieutenant Chris Melanson, the union’s president.
Melanson had initially refused to take down the flags, saying, “They will have to be removed by someone other than a member of this union.”
Chesna’s widow, Cindy Doran Chesna, weighed in on the controversy Sunday, saying she felt the town’s order to remove the flags dishonored her husband’s memory.
The Board of Selectmen attempted to quell the controversy this week, pledging its support for local police and firefighters and saying Hingham has a blanket policy against political statements on town property.
Weymouth officers who worked with Chesna removed the flags from the Hingham trucks Thursday morning, and the union donated them to the Weymouth Police Department in Chesna’s name, according to the statement.
“The flags will be brought to Weymouth Police Headquarters where they will continue to fly with honor,” the union said, adding later, “We will continue our unwavering support for our brothers and sisters in law enforcement and first responders everywhere.”