York, ME – The family of a fallen Maine state trooper was asked to take down a Thin Blue Line flag honoring the 55th anniversary of his murder in the line of duty out of concerns it was offensive.
Charlie Black, the son of fallen Maine State Police Trooper Charles Black, put the flag on a telephone pole at the York Street intersection of his family’s compound on Andrews Way in early July, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Trooper Black, 28, was shot and killed on July 9, 1964 while responding to a bank robbery in South Berwick, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Charlie was born just weeks after his hero father was murdered, the Bangor Daily News reported.
His mother, Mary Black Andrews, said her son had flown the flag to honor his father’s memory and service to Maine, and she was furious that the town wanted it taken down.
“God forbid we should offend anyone,” Andrews told the Bangor Daily News. “It bothers me tremendously. It’s the anniversary of his death. He gave his life to protect the public, and I gave my life to this town, and we can’t even celebrate this person. I’m sorry I offended them. It’s coming down and it won’t happen again.”
She took her fallen husband’s tribute down on July 22.
York Police Chief Charles Szeniawski said Andrews and her son weren’t breaking any laws, the Bangor Daily News reported.
“There is no policy about flags. Can anyone put anything up there? I don’t know. Maybe it’s something we should look at,” Chief Szeniawski said.
The problem with the tribute to the fallen trooper arose after the York Diversity Forum complained to town officials that the Thin Blue Line flag could be sending a racist message, the Bangor Daily News reported.
York Town Manager Steve Burns said he was aware that white supremacist groups had waved the Thin Blue Line flag during the Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrations in 2017.
“I don’t know what the right outcome is,” Burns told the Bangor Daily News. “This family was putting up the flag in memory of Mary’s husband. She’s feeling hurt right now. I also don’t want some visitor to think it’s a racist flag. So I’m glad it’s down. I don’t want the community festering over this.”
So even though it didn’t violate and any town ordinances and was supposed to be a tribute to a fallen trooper, he asked Andrews – whom he called his friend – to take the Thin Blue Line flag down.
Shockingly, the president of the York Diversity Forum told the Bangor Daily News she didn’t even know the background of the tribute to which she was objecting.
“It looks just like an American flag but it’s black and white,” York Diversity Forum President Susan Kepner initially said. “We were concerned about the message that sends. We get along well with the Police Department, and we honor fallen heroes as well as anyone else. We would just like positive messages out there.”
Kepner claimed the Thin Blue Line flag was a problem because it had been used in Charlottesville as a unifying symbol for white nationalists, the Bangor Daily News reported.
It was clear the York Diversity Forum hadn’t done its homework on the history of the Thin Blue Line flag.
In fact, the term “thin blue line” has been popular with law enforcement officers since the 1950s and has nothing to do with the white supremacy movement.
"Anti-police activists routinely make false claims about pro-police symbols to dissuade people from openly showing support for police,” said Christopher Berg, Editor-in-Chief of Blue Lives Matter. "It's cowardly to cater to these baseless claims."
After the news of what the York Diversity Forum had done became public, they found themselves facing a lot of blowback from the community.
So the organization tried to walk back its original assertions, WGME reported.
"We never asked for the flag to be taken down. It was clear that there was no incendiary motivations for why they put it up," Christine Hartwell, a spokeswoman for the York Diversity Forum, told WGME.
The flag was moved to a spot inside the family’s property and Charlie Black has called for peace in the community, the Bangor Daily News reported.
But it was also clear that giving in to the town’s request didn’t mean he had let the uninformed people who associated the flag with white supremacists win.
“The Thin Blue Line symbol belongs to us and we’re not going to let anyone hijack it. We’re not giving it up,” Charlie told the Bangor Daily News.