A Massachusetts high school is suddenly finding itself in the middle of a controversy over a Thin Blue Line flag mural that has been in the school for a couple years that some community members now consider offensive.
Back in the 2018-2019 school year, Taunton High School students and members of the Taunton Police Department came together to paint a Thin Blue Line flag mural at the school, the Taunton Daily Gazette reported. The artwork was designed to show support for local police and is part of the “Cops Corner” at the school resource officers’ “study buddy” area outside the SROs’ office. The area is designed to be a safe place for students to get together, relax, or do schoolwork.
Now, though, the mural is apparently a problem — and a petition was launched to get the mural removed.
Opponents of the mural claim that their problem with the Thin Blue Line flag imagery is not connected to dislike or distrust of police but because they feel that the symbol has been co-opted by white supremacists.
The Taunton Diversity Network has come out in full support of the petition; however, the organization does not know who started it. In fact, no one seems to know who launched it.
The network’s chief, April Cabrera Funches, told WJAR-TV, “What we’ve heard from the students, either present students and even former students, is that they don’t want the flag to be there, that it has a negative vibe and they think it should be removed.”
What is that “negative vibe”?
Funches said that it’s not about the cops — it’s about racism, WBZ-TV reported.
“The negative vibe is not the support of the police,” Funches said. “We fully support the police department and the work that they do. We do know there are — we talk about it all the time — that there are some bad apples. But lately, that flag has been used to really promote and support white supremacy.”
Liberal organizations like the Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism organization that focuses on criminal justice, the Daily Gazette noted, have decried the Thin Blue Line flag because it has been flown by white supremacists — despite the fact that it has been used as a pro-police symbol for about a century. From the Marshall Project:
Those who fly the flag have said it stands for solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a solemn tribute to fallen police officers. But it has also been flown by white supremacists, appearing next to Confederate flags at the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. County officials in Oregon recently paid $100,000 to a black employee of a law enforcement agency there, after she said she was harassed by coworkers for complaining about her colleagues displaying the flag at work.
Funches added to WJAR, “We do want to see better police relations with students. And we fully support that idea. We just think that if you’re going to put something up there, put the American flag.”
The TPD told WBZ that the mural was created with a diverse group of students and that it is working with the school and concerned citizens to find a solution.