Capitol Alert

Democratic presidential candidate tweets ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag, gets an earful on Twitter

California congressman and Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Eric Swalwell crossed a line with some people Wednesday after he posted an image of a “thin blue line” flag associated with the “Blue Lives Matter” movement.

Some activists perceive the “blue lives” image to be in conflict with the Black Lives Matter movement that arose after a police officer in 2014 shot and killed Michael Brown, a black man, in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury declined to indict the officer for the shooting.

Swalwell posted the image to commemorate “Police Week 2019,” writing that “We mourn and honor the officers we lost in the last year, but vow to always remember their sacrifice.”

That didn’t sit well with many. Two hours after Swalwell’s tweet went up, there were dozens of replies.

“Delete this,” one person wrote. “That abomination of the American flag represents Police silence in the face of corruption/excessive force.”

“Fallen officers and blue lives matter are two totally separate things... its(sic) not a good look for you,” tweeted another.

Others rallied behind the flag, with some sharing photos of their own flags and others offering support for law enforcement.

“Thank you. Our house daily,” one person tweeted, with a photo of what appeared to be a Thin Blue Line flag in front of their home.

The black-and-white flag with a thin blue stripe originated as a patch until the Michigan-based company Thin Blue Line USA turned it into a 3-foot by 5-foot flag in 2014. The flag is not political, according to the company.

“The ‘Thin Blue Line’ American flag represents law enforcement and is flown to show support for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. This symbol is hailed as the proud front for a national movement promoting compassion and support for our nation’s police officers,” according to the website “Thin Blue Line USA,” which sells the flags, as well as clothing with the symbol on it.

But the flag, and the slogan “Blue Lives Matter,” creates a false equivalency between occupation, which can be chosen, and race, which cannot, according to Jonathan Russell, a chaplain and contributing fellow at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

In a column for liberal news website HuffPost, Russell wrote that propagating the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag in response to #BlackLivesMatteris not only disrespectful and unwarranted, but also potentially a reinforcement of this toxic culture of play-ignorance and mistreatment.”

“BlueLivesMatter” was also a target of Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign, aimed at tilting the election in President Donald Trump’s favor, as reported by the website Daily Beast.

The Thin Blue Line flag has also been adopted by white supremacist groups, including at the Charlottesville, Virginia rally in 2017. Their use of the flag prompted the Multnomah County (Oregon) courthouse to take down the Thin Blue Line flag from the break room, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
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