Woodworker's 'thin blue line' flag sparks controversy

The flag was a gift from a father and son to the local police, but the county executive objected to its display

A Maryland woodworker's decision to craft a "thin blue line" flag for a local police department has turned into a controversy that now includes Gov. Larry Hogan.

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James Shelton and his son, Forrest, gave the wooden flag to the 5th District Police Station in Germantown, Md., last week to celebrate National First Responders Day, ABC7 reported.

But when a photo of Forrest and officers posing with the thin blue line flag was posted on social media a few days later, negative comments caught the attention of the Marc Elrich, the Montgomery County executive, ABC7 reported.

Elrich, a Democrat, said on Friday that the flag "provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others" and therefore shouldn't be posted in the police department. Hogan, the state's Republican governor, to the side of the Sheltons.

"I'm offended and disgusted that County Executive Marc Elrich has prohibited Montgomery County Police officers from displaying a 'thin blue line' American flag that was made for them by a father [and] his young son in honor of National First Responders Day," Hogan, a Republican, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

The flag, which is designed like an American flag but is black and white except for a blue stripe through the center, is also known as the Blue Lives Matter flag, and it began to be used as a symbol in about 2014 when police clashes with black men throughout the country were gaining national attention and the Black Lives Matter movement was beginning.

The flag has been appropriated by some white nationalist groups and was prominently flown by white supremacists during the Unite the Right rally in Charlotteville, Va., where one person who had been protesting the rally was run down and killed by a motorist.

The designer of the flag condemned its use during that rally, according to USA Today.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 on Saturday called Elrich's decision an "arbitrary, political action" and blasted acting Chief Marcus Jones, of the Montgomery County Police,  as partly to blame.

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Jones then wrote a letter to officers saying Elrich's decision only applied to the specific wooden flag given to them by the Sheltons and was not permanent, ABC7 reported.

"I wanted my son to be involved so he could see how important it is to give back as well as to help build good character and make a wonderful memory we will always have," Shelton told ABC7 on Wednesday. My son "was so excited to help and even more so when be helped me deliver them."

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