POLITICS

"America Backs The Blue" Rally To Be Held At Town Hall

By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, Published: July 27, 2020
Photo courtesy of Heather Hedlund

A group of residents plan to hold an "America Backs The Blue" rally at Hingham Town Hall on Tuesday, July 28th at 1:00 p.m. The rally is in direct response to a controversial decision to have all "Thin Blue Line" flags removed from Town property. This decision elicited an immediate and widespread reaction from the public. Lifelong Hingham resident Heather Hedlund captured the sentiments of many in a strongly-worded letter to the Selectmen.

 

"As a Hingham resident and taxpayer, I am writing to express my disappointment and outrage in how the email complaint by a Hingham college student regarding the display of the thin blue line flag on the fire truck was handled by our Hingham leaders. We all know that the display of the flag was to honor the memory of Sgt. Chesna, as well as to show support for members of law enforcement. This show of support is needed more than ever these days.

"The thin blue line flag is not a political symbol, though some people are trying to change its meaning and declare it to be 'offensive.' I will never understand how supporting law enforcement and honoring those who gave their lives to keep their communities safe is 'offensive.'

"For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed to be from Hingham. Just as the complainant 'called for the immediate removal of the thin blue line flag from the vehicle,' I am calling for the immediate re-display of the thin blue line flag on the vehicle."

On Wednesday, July 22nd, a college student wrote a letter to the Selectmen expressing his concerns over a "Thin Blue Line" flag being flown from the back of a Hingham fire engine. Selectman Joe Fisher forwarded the email to Fire Chief Steve Murphy who in turn forwarded it to Town Administrator Tom Mayo and Police Chief Glenn Olsson.

In response, Chief Olsson said that he appreciates that "from time to time" the departments show support during tragedies, "such as the murder of Sgt. Chessna (sic)." He went on to say that these displays "should have a time frame for removal" and suggested that "any material on all town owned property that shows favor to one group or another" be taken down, including "material posted by athletic clubs."

However, the firefighters in Local 2398 are refusing to remove the Thin Blue Line flags from the trucks. At issue is the fact that there is no official policy in place that expressly forbids the display of the flag. There is speculation that the Selectmen may take the issue up at tomorrow night's meeting; however, it is not an item on the agenda.

In the meantime, another group of residents plans to protest the rally. Susan Rayburn shared a link on social media and suggested that the rally was "a good time to show your support for the removal of the 'Blue Lives Matter'/'Thin Blue Line' flag from OUR firetrucks... you know, the firetrucks we pay for?" She went on to share her perspective.

"Nothing new to hear from police or fire unions defending these flags... they refuse to educate themselves and think that if they just repeat over and over again that 'it isn't racist' then the fact that it is, in fact, a racist message will just go away. I wish they would seek another way to honor the countless honorable officers, including those who have lost their lives while doing a good, brave and honorable job, rather than digging their heals (sic) in and insisting that Black people and those who love them should not be offended. Sometimes it is simply not about your intent, whether your claimed intent is one of honor or not. Remember: our children are watching, let's continue to show them what empathy, compassion and anti-racism is all about. I continue to be uplifted and proud of everyone who lives in this town who has supported the Black Lives Matter movement through their words and deeds. We are truly blessed, and our blessings will not disappear with the extension of equal rights and justice to Black and Brown people. Thank you for daring to challenge the powerful diseases of systemic racism and police brutality."

Sgt. Michael Chesna of the Weymouth Police Department was killed in the line of duty on July 15, 2018. Thin Blue Line flags are hung every year in his honor. Cindy Chesna, Sgt. Chesna's widow, recently took to her public Facebook page and, in an uncharacteristic move, shared her thoughts on the current state of affairs.

"Two years ago my husband Sgt Michael Chesna was killed for doing the job he loved, being a police officer. It was, and continues to be, the most painful thing I have ever endured. It has affected not only me and my children, but my family, Mike’s family, and Mike’s friends. When Mike was murdered there were no protests (peaceful or otherwise), no riots, and no looting. There was certainly no public outcry from politicians for the reform of a broken justice system that lets repeat offenders out on the street. Instead everyone banded together and prayed, we prayed that we would find the strength to face each day with the knowledge of what we lost.


"At that time I received a tremendous outpouring of support from politicians, our first responders, and citizens of towns near and far.
 

"People, by way of ribbons, flags, signs and lightbulbs turned my town blue to show their respect not only for mike, in recognition of his sacrifice, but as a way to support all of our brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day. Part of this tribute included the thin blue line flag which, to this day, is displayed everywhere in my home, on our clothing, cars and in various places of our town and many other towns. The thin blue line flag is not a political statement and does not represent an opposition toward anything. It simply represents the police officers role of separating the good from the bad while creating order from the chaos. This is what separates the world from them. No one had an issue with the thin blue line flag then nor did they have an issue with our officers who instead were treated with the respect that they so deserve.
 

"Two years later I am witnessing the complete opposite from a lot of the people who looked me straight in the eyes at mikes wake and promised to always be there for me, offering anything they could do. Now those same politicians are showing the utmost disrespect to our officers with this reform bill and even a certain town (with the agreement of both the fire Chief and police Chief) are disrespecting our officers by demanding that the thin blue line flag be removed from their fire trucks. I take each of these actions as a personal attack on everything Mike stood for as a police officer and a decorated army veteran with 2 two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.


"My children are growing up in a world where police are vilified. Their father was not a villain, he was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice. His memory should never be tarnished by anyone.


"It is not okay to judge someone based on the color of their skin, sexual orientation, race, gender etc, but it has become absolutely permitted and almost encouraged to despise police officers because of the job they choose to do. They did not choose to be victims of all this but to only serve and protect. People don’t realize that these officers come home and take off the uniform and are people just like you and me. Obviously, as past actions of some police officers have shown, those who choose to abuse their authority should be removed from their position and punished criminally. However, these bad apples are the exception rather than the rule. I do not condone violence and I agree that every person, no matter what your job, needs to be held accountable for their actions. I also feel that those who give false promises of unwavering support should be held accountable in November.


"My children and I have witnessed enough hatred in the world and I do not want them to grow up thinking that this is the norm. My children have seen way more than they should be seeing. Please respect one another and be kind, no matter the circumstances. There is no place for disrespect and violence in this world. Please try your best to choose love over hate. 🖤💙🖤


"I couldn't be silent anymore. This is way to (sic) personal for me and I will always stand up for my husband. His memory won't be desecrated along with any officer that has payed (sic) the ultimate sacrifice.😢💔"

Kristen Arute can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.