ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland Governor Larry Hogan blasted Montgomery County leadership Sunday, calling the decision that forced the removal of a “thin blue line” flag from a county police station “disgraceful” and “outrageous.”
Here’s the backstory: Bill Byrne, a woodworker who lives just outside of Chicago, wanted to do something to honor first responders. So he made a flag and gave it to local firefighters. It ended up spurring a movement. Called “The Makers Challenge,” Byrne encouraged other woodworkers across the country to do the same thing. Many of them posted about their own flags using the hashtag #makersneverforget on Instagram.
“The intent was one thing – to support first responders. That’s it,” Byrne said Sunday night. “We’re not trying to make a political stance by making a blue line flag or a red line flag, we’re simply showing support to the people that when you need them, they’ll come first.”
There hadn’t been any problems – not a single one – that is, until a woodworker named James Shelton made a thin blue line flag for Montgomery County Police. While the officers initially posted a message thanking Shelton on social media, several comments rolled in from people who opposed the flag.
“This flag, the symbol of “Blue Lives Matter,” excuses police violence against black residents, and mocks those who affirm that #blacklivesmatter,” one commenter said.
County Executive Marc Elrich released a statement, saying in part, “the flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others. Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th district nor in any public space within the Police Department.”
That led to Hogan tweeting pictures of similar thin blue line flags hanging in Annapolis. He added that he’s offended and disgusted by Elrich’s decision and said Elrich should apologize.
As for Byrne, he just wants the decision reversed.
“I just hate that the direction of such a good act went to where it did in that region because we did a really great thing, a historic thing,” he said.
A “thin red line” flag was also given to a fire station in North Potomac, which is in Montgomery County. Reached by phone Sunday night, a firefighter said the flag is still hanging and no one from the county has told firefighters to take it down.