The Hamilton County, Ohio sheriff’s office on Sunday acknowledged flying a “Thin Blue Line” flag over the county jail in Cincinnati, as protesters there and around the country demonstrated against police brutality.
In a tweet, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office claimed that the American flag flying above the Hamilton County Justice Center, in Cincinnati, had been stolen “during the Vandalism” there. The office also acknowledged that sheriff’s deputies had raised the altered black, white and blue version of the American flag. The Thin Blue Line Flag has come to represent the “Blue Lives Matter,” pro-police movement popularized in response to Black Lives Matter.
Our American Flag was stolen during the Vandalism of the Justice Center. The Thin Blue Line was raised by our deputies to honor the CPD Officer who was shot. The flag has been removed and we will replace it with the American Flag in the morning. @ChrisSeelbach
— Hamilton County Sheriff's Office-Sheriff Jim Neil (@hcso_org) June 1, 2020
The Cincinnati Police Department officer referenced in the tweet was wearing a ballistic helmet when it was hit by bullet in the early morning hours Sunday. The officer was not injured, according to police.
Photos of the Thin Blue Line flag, which popped up on Facebook and Reddit before the sheriff’s confirmation, drew condemnations from activists and local officials.
The Cincinnati police pulled down the American flag at the justice center and replaced it with the thin blue line. Infuriating. Picture from a friend. pic.twitter.com/1bM0ovH0T6
— ✌Pokes✌ (@P0kes) May 31, 2020
“Should have been replaced with American flag immediately,” Cincinnati City Council President Chris Seelbach wrote on Twitter in response to the sheriff’s office’s tweet. “Not replaced with a politically charged blue lives matter flag when thousands are protesting in our streets because #BlackLivesMatter Sheriff Neil has only made things worse. Again.”
“I know I am not alone in my view that flying the flag was provocative and inappropriate, especially in the context this weekend’s events,” Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus wrote Monday.
Thin Blue Line USA, which sells the flags and other pro-police merchandise, says the flag celebrates the “thankless work” done by law enforcement.
“[T]he black space above the blue line represents society, order and peace, while the black below, crime, anarchy, and chaos,” the company says on its website. “The Thin Blue Line running between them, ‘law enforcement,’ separates the two, keeping crime separated from society.”
Even when the nation isn’t roiled by coast-to-coast protests against police brutality, the flag has proven divisive when flown on government property. And even among advocates for members of law enforcement, some view the flag as a “desecration” of the actual American flag.
The flag has also at times been displayed by members of the extremist far-right and was spotted among protesters at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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