Around a dozen police officers from Cleveland and their families reportedly led a group of hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in support of the “thin blue line” flag Friday after it was banned this week by an Ohio school district.
The rally followed the tragic news on Thursday of a fatally shot Cleveland police officer. Three suspects were allegedly arrested for the murder of Detective James Skernivitz of Cleveland police.
“My husband is a Cleveland police officer, and my son is a Cleveland police officer. I have two of them, and it’s dear to my heart when one of them are killed,” protester Donna Glowacki said, according to FOX 8 in Cleveland.
Ohio Public School strikes again.
They just BANNED the thin blue line flag because HOW DARE students show support for law enforcement.
If at all possible, get your kids out of public school. https://t.co/issPHyr6fJ
— CitizensForFreeSpeechOHIO🇺🇲 (@CFFS_Ohio) September 1, 2020
Controversy sparked when student carried flag onto a football field
— Brandon Tatum (@TheOfficerTatum) September 3, 2020
The flag controversy began when a high school football player brought a pro-police flag on the field to honor local first responders and his father, a police officer, before a game last Friday.
The flag is a black-and-white version of the American flag, depicting police with one bright blue stripe.
“This display will not be a part of future pre-game activities at Chardon athletic contests,” Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael P. Hanlon Jr. wrote in a statement Monday. “In addition, measures will be put in place by our athletic director to review any planned pre-game displays for possible connections to any form of discrimination or particular political views.”
The flag’s appearance at the game sparked a controversy within the group about whether it showed innocent support for law enforcement or conveyed a negative attitude toward anti-Black Lives Matter.
Hanlon said running out on the field with the flag “could be interpreted as a racially motivated action,” and he also noted that district policy “does not permit engagement in political activity.”
The district concluded that the student was actually attempting to support law enforcement but also agreed that the flag should be interpreted as a political declaration.
Police had responded to a shooting at the school
“We’re here to support the police, we need them, we need their protection,” protester Chris Styblo told FOX 8. “The fact that the superintendent stated this was a political move — what happened at the game — it’s wrong. It wasn’t a political statement. They need to know that most of us Americans, we stand behind them.”
Rally organizer Eric Downing said he had in mind police officers who responded to a 2012 high school shooting that left three students dead.
“I thought it just was really a disrespect to the people who ran into the school to save the teachers and students in 2012,” he told FOX 8. “Every day they leave, they kiss their family goodbye, they have no idea if they’re gonna make it back, no idea at all and how can you not respect them for protecting you?” he added.