Outside Montgomery County’s fifth district police precinct, a group gathered and handed out “thin blue line” flags in protest of a decision banning the flag from being displayed publicly in police stations in the Maryland county.
The organization Brothers Before Others stood outside the precinct, handing out the flag to people in response to county Executive Marc Elrich’s decision.
“They want us to give up this flag and surrender it because they say it’s a bad thing. That’s not going to happen,” said Rob O’Donnell, who was with the group.
The group organized the event after Elrich banned the public display of a wooden “thin blue line” flag, which had been given as a gift by a father and son to the station on National First Responders Day.
Elrich said he was concerned because the flag has been adopted by Blue Lives Matter, which was formed in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
O’Donnell said the gathering at the station on Friday afternoon is meant to show support for the department’s police officers. It is a chance for others to speak up about the decision, as police officers in the department cannot, he said.
“To say this [the flag] was created to be anti any other movement, to say this is [a] white supremacist or divisive symbol is just outrageous,” O’Donnell said. “You know, five minutes of research would have proved otherwise.”
O’Donnell believes the move by Elrich is strictly political because a similar “thin red line” flag given to the nearby fire department from the same family did not spark controversy.
At a news conference on Monday, Elrich said that there are some in the community who are concerned about the levels of violence against black people around the nation and who take the “thin blue line flag” as dismissive towards Black Lives Matter.
Former Montgomery County police officer and former Takoma Park police Chief Alan Goldberg said he disagreed with Elrich, and he called banning the public display of the gift a form of censorship that is inappropriate.
“It is just saying that the police are the thin blue line between chaos and order, and that’s what it has always stood for,” Goldberg said.
Many in attendance criticized Elrich for his handling of the situation, among them Mike Gugulis, of Gaithersburg.
“The police support everyone equally, so there’s no reason for him to be talking like he is; the man is nuts,” Gugulis said.
Susie Brown-Butler, of Germantown, showed up to the event waving one of the flags. She called Elrich’s decision a terrible one.
“I think he’s just picking on the police department,” Brown-Butler said.
During the event, O’Donnell said 100 “thin blue line” flags were handed out to officers at the station and members of the community.