ROCKVILLE— Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan are at odds over a wooden American flag that was meant to be a show of support for local police.
On Nov. 2, a young boy and his father delivered the wall hanging to the Fifth District Police Station in Germantown. The wooden flag has a blue line running through it, which is meant to represent law enforcement officers.
Later in the week, the Fifth District Police Station posted a picture on Facebook and Twitter showing officers holding the wooden flag alongside the woodworker, James Shelton and his son. The posts thanked Shelton for his handiwork and announced that the wall hanging would be displayed in the Fifth District Station.
Thank you to resident James Shelton, who presented Montgomery County 5th District officers with a wooden American Flag that he had made in recognition of National First Responders Day. The flag will be displayed in the 5th District Station. pic.twitter.com/kbAI32xHkY
— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) October 30, 2019
However, the social media posts were met with some disdain from members of the community who felt like the wall hanging has a resemblance to the Blue Lives Matter symbol. A similar flag sporting a thin blue line was also carried during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
Given the backlash to the wall hanging, Elrich decided in a statement that it should not be displayed at the station.
“Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones and I understand the concerns of the community. The flag provides a symbol of support to some, but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others. Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th District nor in any public space within the Police Department. Under my administration, we are committed to improving police relations with the community and will immediately address any action that stands against our mission,” he said.
Elrich’s decision drew attention from local police organizations and Maryland’s governor himself.
Hogan posted photos of himself on Twitter posing in front of similar flags, saying, “We are proud to hang these Thin Blue Line flags in Government House to honor our brave law enforcement officers. A local elected official prohibiting police from displaying a flag given to them by a grateful child is disgraceful.”
We are proud to hang these Thin Blue Line flags in Government House to honor our brave law enforcement officers. A local elected official prohibiting police from displaying a flag given to them by a grateful child is disgraceful. pic.twitter.com/PmPGzfSSF1
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) November 3, 2019
A similar response from the Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police noted that local police found Elrich’s decision “offensive.”
“We condemn this arbitrary, political action and are especially disappointed that Marcus Jones does not demonstrate appreciation and understanding of the concerns of working police officers,” they wrote. “The working police officers of Montgomery County are highly offended by this act of outright disrespect for them and that flag which represents the sacrifices and dedication of police officers who daily risk their lives, health, limbs and own well-being in service to their community.”
Brothers Before Others, a charity of active and retired law enforcement officers, made its own statement, calling Elrich’s decision itself, divisive.
“The flag was well received by the (officers), along with a social media post which triggered the anti-police activists which a clear objective to portray the flag in a false light, which Executive Elrich took, hook, line and sinker, ordering that it be removed,” they wrote.
Brothers Before Others went on to thank Hogan for standing up for the flag. They also announced that the group’s members will distribute Blue Line Flags to the officers serving at the Fifth District Station on Nov. 8 at noon.
The Brothers Before Others organization invited Governor Hogan to join them on Friday as “a sign of National Support and recognition to their service to the great community of Montgomery County