The history of police violence in America is hidden under the ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag

The history of police violence in America is hidden under the 'Thin Blue Line' flag

Daunte Wright, 20, was fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop a little more than a week before the jury delivered its verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, and about 10 miles from the Hennepin County Government Center where Chauvin sat on trial. A rebellious “Thin Blue Line” flag was erected over the Brooklyn Center Police Department building in Minnesota the next week.

The history of police violence in America is hidden under the ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag

Its raising marked the end of a night of violently suppressed protests over the 20-year-death, old’s a young Black father who had been pulled over, according to his mother. because he was shot in the chest by veteran Officer Kim Potter, former president of the city’s police union, when cops saw air fresheners dangling from his rearview mirror. The Thin Blue Line flag was only introduced in 2014. Andrew Jacob, a white college student from a wealthy suburb of Detroit, came up with the idea after seeing the outrage against police violence following the deaths of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in New York, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The protests, he observed, lacked respect for the police and were rife with anti-police sentiment.

The expression “the thin blue line” is older, possibly coined by New York City police Commissioner Richard Enright in 1922 to describe cops as “that intensive combat line, the first line of defense against lawlessness.” The phrase had gone mainstream by the 1980s, thanks to a symbiotic relationship between increasingly powerful city police departments and sympathetic media; in Errol Morris’ 1988 film of the same name, a judge told the camera that police were “the thin blue line that separates the public from anarchy.” The flag, which has earned its creator’s company, Thin Blue Line USA, a healthy livelihood selling related items, is a literalization of this vision: a United States flag in a harsh photonegative pattern, save for a broad line of blue.

The blue line, according to Jacob, both divides and saves: it separates the black stripes above it, which represent civilians, from the black stripes below it, which represent criminals, a separate group from those deserving of protection. The blue line, which hangs above the threat that must be destroyed, serves as both a border and an elevation. When the death of Wright on April 11 sparked new civilian protests in Minneapolis, police gathered in tight formation, in full riot gear with shields, batons, and service weapons, ready to repel an invading army, as they had done so many times this year, including in response to Floyd’s murder nearly a year ago. Curfews were put in place.

The National Guard was called in to help. Chemical warfare emitted an opaque greenish mist that hung in stinging clouds in the streets, making occupants in nearby apartments cough. Protesters with posters and chanting had dispersed by morning, leaving the Thin Blue Line flag alone in the murky sky. More police armies gathered in American towns as the country awaited the judgement in the Chauvin trial. Minneapolis, Chicago, and Philadelphia all received National Guard deployments. Should Chauvin be acquitted, the Los Angeles Police Department, like its colleagues across the country in the New York Police Department, organized a massive protest.

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