This letter was submitted by Justin Glawe, a Savannah-based freelance journalist and freelancer.
Ahead of the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run last Saturday, some runners might have noticed an interesting flag next to the stars and stripes ahead of the race.
“I’ve invited these gentlemen with their American flags, and the thin blue line flag, on this stage to join me,” a woman on the dais said before runners sang the national anthem.
The addition of the flag, with its lone blue, horizontal stripe can be considered controversial. While some may view the flag as representing good faith support for law enforcement, many others view it differently: as a refutation of the Black Lives Matter movement, as supportive of systemic racism in the criminal justice system, and as emblematic of the authoritarian leanings of many on the right in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascension to power.
It was this flag, among others, that was used to assault Capitol police officers at Trump supporters’ insurrection attempt on Jan. 6. It is this flag that is flown by counter-protesters who show up to protests held in the aftermath of fatal police shootings of people of color. It is this flag that, to many, has much broader meaning than simply “backing the blue.”
In the same way that some associate the sometimes-violent protests of last summer with the Black Lives Matter movement, others associate the thin blue line flag held aloft at last weekend’s race with a tacit support of police violence against people of color, and the larger fascist belief system that goes along with blind allegiance to law enforcement. That so many white Americans who are not police themselves fly this flag should tell you they have other reasons for doing so.
Many of them wrongly believe that police are under attack. Others may believe that lawless mobs of rioters could descend on their town at any moment, with only the “thin blue line” standing in the way. Both wrong assumptions bestow upon police an air of authority the constitution never intended.
Police are not military warriors, and America is not a war zone consisting of warring factions. Instead, police are our fellow community members working a job that is tough but is often no less safe than many of our own. They deserve our respect, not our fealty.
But for many that’s exactly what the flag at Saturday’s race commands.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Enmarket Bridge Run organizers flew thin blue line flag during anthem