In the hours after the tragic news came out about the brutal killing of Officer Natalie Corona, many quickly were able to find a stunning image of the slain young officer, wearing a beautiful blue dress and waving a Thin Blue Line flag.
However, while some have seen this as a symbol of her love of police work, others see this as supporting the Blue Lives Matter movement, seen by many on the left as a push back against “Black Lives Matter” and the protests against officer-involved shootings, particularly against people of color.
Hiding just behind the scenes of united community outpouring of grief, horror, and sympathy for the loss of this young woman has been a growing debate.
It began with a message from the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission which noted that, while they send their “deepest condolences to the police officer’s family,” they also wanted to “provide resources for students triggered by this event and the circulating images of a flag that has been popularized by the ‘Blues Lives Matter’ crowd.
“Flashing lights, sirens, and increased police presence can be triggering to many Black and Brown people,” they wrote. “In addition, there has been the circulation of an image of the police officer with the Blue Lives Matter flag. We would like to directly address that this flag represents an attempt by law enforcement to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘Blue Lives Matter’ was… an effort to evade accountability and critical awareness of police treatment of communities of color.”
On Friday night, ASUCD student body president Michael Gofman condemned the commission for what he called “this disgusting post” and urged them to take it down and issue an apology.
Thin Blue Line USA said in a statement. “We reject, in the strongest possible terms, any association of our flag with racism, hatred, and bigotry. To use it in such a way tarnishes what it and our nation believe in. The thin blue line flag stands for the sacrifice law enforcement officers of this nation make each day. We ask our nation to hold faith with those that defend the thin blue line.”
“Its easy to sit on the third floor of the Memorial Union when there are at least 100 brave men and women in blue between you and the shooter. It is easy to argue hypotheticals, politics, and ideology when you’re in safety,” Mr. Gofman wrote. “I am ashamed that some of these same people, protected by the very officers that they are condemning, have the audacity to politicize the loss of a young officer. Her only crime was being a police officer.”
The group took down the post, but the debate roars on.
Many cite an article posted in The Public from June 26, 2018 by Michael Niman, entitled, “This is a Racist Symbol.” He argues that this flag simply replaced the Confederate flags when the latter became indefensibly seen as a racist symbol.
But he notes “The American flag remix version first appeared in 2016 during the rise of Trumpism, the mainstreaming of racism, and the backlash against the Obama-era civil rights movements—most notably the Black Lives Matter movement.”
And it “came into being with the rise of the self-termed Blue Lives Matter movement, evolving to become the formal symbol for that group, rather than for generic support for police officers or law and order. Blue Lives Matter, like White Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, rose as a reaction to Black Lives Matter, promoting the falsehood that the civil rights movement is actually an anti-police hate group.”
In response to this debate, Davis Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida, who started the Phoenix Coalition in response to a violent hate incident involving the beating of her son by a man who used homophobic epithets, sought to calm tensions as they were running high.
In a Facebook post she wrote:
“It has been a tough few days. I was at the pinning of officer Corona and remember feeling hopeful for the future in our community.
“As a person of color it is always heartening to see your own edge into places of power. I have been further grappling with the conversations around the thin blue line flag she is holding in the series of pictures widely circulated.
“I am a full supporter of changing policing practices and believe our community is on a path to do so. I felt Natalie would have made huge strides in that direction. Here are my thoughts.
“There is imagery in my culture that is almost sacred. That most of my people rally around and identify with. The image of the virgin Mary of Guadelupe and La Catrina are the two that come to mind. If a despicable hate group took those images up in a rally and they became attached to them would I give those symbols up?
“You may say that would never happen and that is a different situation, but my culture is traditionally highly conservative and fringe groups popping up are not (outside) the realm of possibility.
“Again I can not stress how emphatically I support the BLM stance on protecting POC from disproportionate policing. I also fully support the selfless service many people on the police force give to communities. I personally saw our police force work to keep us safe even as they worked with a lump in their throats.
“Many will say you must choose a side but I truly believe it is the people that fill the overlap that have ultimately moved us forward in history.”
Unfortunately, with a string of news articles on this, there has been more backlash.
A former member of ASUCD recently shared four emails the she had received in response to this controversy, each of them appearing to fortunately be from outside of the community – but disturbing and unabashedly racist nonetheless.
Will Arnold, in his response to Gloria Partida’s post, noted, “For what it’s worth, and I believe it is worth a lot, this is what Officer Corona intended it to represent in her own words. It is as if she anticipated this conversation.”
She wrote: “I would like this photograph to serve as my gratitude for all those law enforcement men and women who have served, who are currently serving, and those who have died in the line of duty protecting out liberties in this great country.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting