Firefighters in Riverside, California have been banned from flying an American flag with a “thin blue line” in support of police officers due to concerns that doing so could divide the community and put firefighters in danger.
The city’s police chief said in a statement that the public display of support could result in anti-police “extremists targeting the fire engine,” possibly putting firefighters’ lives in danger, according to Fox News’ Todd Starnes, who obtained a copy of a letter. One firefighter said in a Facebook post that he had been asked by the department to remove any pictures of the flag from social media.
“Not only were we advised to remove the flag and stripe off the door, I was also asked by the department that they would like all the pictures removed from social media and my personal Facebook account,” firefighter Eric Hille wrote.
“We just wanted to show our support for law enforcement,” Hille told Fox News. “We wanted them to know that we stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them.”
Starnes obtained a copy of an email sent from fire chief John Hawkins to the firefighters, explaining the decision.
“Our foremost concern was whether the flag could create a safety risk for emergency responders due to extremists targeting the fire engine or for people following the fire engine and not being able to see the warning lights,” Hawkins wrote, later emphasizing the need to “look at the big picture.”
“How is this perceived by not only the public, but also those that would seek to do harm to those in public safety?” Hawkins wrote. “Some feel the flag is an attempt to incite further violence against those who, to our very core, have dedicated our lives to protecting all lives.”
The Daily Caller reported last month that a Rhode Island city official compared his city’s firefighters to terrorists for flying an American flag on their truck. Like the firefighters in Riverside, those firefighters claimed they were told to remove the flag from their truck.