A flag in the Connecticut State Capitol has renewed a debate about the relationship among police, politicians and members of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Officials removed a “thin blue line” flag used to honor police officers from the legislative building last week after Democratic members of the Connecticut General Assembly expressed concerns that the flag was offensive to “Black Lives Matter” activists. But the removal will be short-lived, as President of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and state Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, requested on Feb. 21 that the flag be reinstated after requests from constituents and a meeting with John Krupinsky, the president of the Connecticut Fraternal Order of Police. McGee originally requested that the flag be taken down. The flag has since been reinstalled on the wall.
According to Krupinsky, two state legislators asked for the flag’s removal because they thought that it symbolized “Blue Lives Matter.” Krupinsky said that there had been “confusion as to the origin of the flag.” He said that he explained to the legislators that the “Blue Lives Matter” movement has only been around since 2015, while the flag has existed since at least 1991.
“The flag is used for memorial purposes as well as a show of support for the police,” Krupinsky wrote in a statement to the News, explaining that the removal of the flag stemmed from a misunderstanding about the connotations of the flag. Krupinsky wrote that McGee had no issue reinstating the flag after he explained its history during their meeting.
“Good things always start with conversation,” Krupinsky wrote.
Krupinksy told the News that he and the Fraternal Order of Police are “extremely happy” that the flag is back up.
Last month, the State Capitol Police Department donated a wooden “thin blue line” flag, which was hung up next to a portrait of the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial at the State Capitol, according to a Jan. 17 post on the State Capitol Police Department Facebook page.
“[The State Capitol Police Department] will never forget the loss of officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice and their families,” the post wrote.
Along with the written post, the department also posted a photo of 27 officers and a dog standing behind the flag, with State Capitol Police Chief Walter Lee Jr. holding up the flag.
The State Capitol Police patrol an area in Downtown Hartford, which includes the state capitol and legislative office buildings. The area also encompasses the Old State House and other office buildings. The Capitol Police work in partnership with the City of Hartford and State Police Departments, according to the capitol police website.
The State Capitol Police could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Republicans in the state assembly protested the removal of the flag, calling the flag a symbol of the sacrifices of law enforcement, rather than of any white supremacist agenda.
“Thank you for what you do,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Orange, tweeted in response to a law enforcement officer who thanked her for her efforts to reinstate the flag.
The “thin blue line” is a phrase used by law enforcement officials to refer to the role of police to separate order from chaos in society — an allusion to the Thin Red Line of British troops that held off a Russian cavalry charge during the Crimean War.
The phrase has inspired several flag adaptations in honor of police forces, including one of the British Union Jack and one of the American flag. The American version is the typical “Stars and Stripes” banner in black and white, with a blue stripe in the middle replacing one of the white stripes. The American version is the one hung in the capitol building.
The symbol has drawn controversy in the past. Several white nationalist groups carried the flag during the infamous 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. There, the flag was meant to symbolize both support for the police and opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to USA Today.
The use of the flag by white supremacists led an Oregon courthouse to take down the flag later in 2017.
The state assembly has met in the current State Capitol building since 1879.
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