NEWBURYPORT — For three months, Daniel Brothers has flown a “thin blue line” flag outside his Federal Street home. But on Tuesday morning, he awakened to find the flag missing and the flagpole broken.
Soon after Brothers found the flag missing, he reported it to police about 7:50 a.m., according to the Newburyport Police Department log.
With family members and friends on the force, Brothers said it was important for him and his family to show their support for the police.
“The biggest feeling is disappointment,” Brothers said of the theft.
But this type of flag is not without controversy.
Across the country, thin blue line flags have stirred deep divisions, especially since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers in 2020.
Floyd’s killing sparked protests across the country and exacerbated racial and economic tension. Locally, the flag has been flown in front of the police station on Green Street for years, a fact that has not sat well with some people in Greater Newburyport.
In April, it was announced there would be a series of discussions, organized by the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance, regarding the thin blue line flag at the police station that would likely take place in June. A discussion on law enforcement’s role within the city was scheduled for June 15, according to the DEI website.
Also in April, Mayor Donna Holaday acknowledged the thin blue line flag, which had originally been designed as representing the work police departments do, had been co-opted by white supremacist groups
“There are some concerns as to why the Police Department is flying the thin blue line flag outside of their station,” Holiday said in April.
What makes the theft more disturbing to Brothers is that he has reason to believe the incident Monday night was not the first. Brothers said that a few weeks before, someone had taken the flag out of its holder, rolled it into a loose cylinder and placed it on the ground.
“I’m not shocked but I’m disappointed,” he added.
Brothers said he purchased three more thin blue line flags and video cameras so that if someone pays his home another unwelcome visit, he will have more information to tell police.
“The message is important to me and my family and we’re going to keep flying it proudly,” he said.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.