Hingham, MA – A firefighters union in Massachusetts said it will not remove the Thin Blue Line flags displayed on the Hingham Fire Department’s (HFD) fire engines in memory of a Weymouth police sergeant who was murdered in the line of duty.
HFD members recently began flying Thin Blue Line flags from the town’s fire apparatus in observance of the anniversary of the line-of-duty death of Weymouth Police Sergeant Michael Chesna, the Hingham Firefighters Local 2390 announced in a Facebook post on July 23.
Sgt. Chesna, a 42-year-old married father of two, was murdered in the line of duty on July 15, 2018, while chasing a suspect on foot.
The suspect attacked the sergeant, hitting him in the head with a large rock and knocking him to the ground, WCVB reported at the time.
He then stole his duty weapon and shot him several times in the head and chest, killing him.
The firefighters union said in its post that its members “proudly support” their “brothers and sisters in blue.”
“The flags were recently put on the apparatus leading up to the anniversary of the senseless murder of officer Michael Chesna in our neighboring community of Weymouth,” the union said in the July 23 post. “We continued to fly the flags after the anniversary in support of the law enforcement officers in our own community, as well as all law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.”
The union argued that the Thin Blue Line flags did not represent a “political statement…nor was it an attempt to show support for, or against, any specific political party or advocacy group.”
But critics filed complaints with the city, which ultimately determined that flying Thin Blue Line flags from the fire engine “was a violation of a town policy,” according to the firefighters.
The union repeatedly asked for a copy of the policy its members were alleged to have violated, but “have been met with silence,” the group said in a follow-up post on Monday.
The union said that although the lack of response from town leaders has been “disheartening,” they have received an “overwhelming outpouring of support” from the community.
Not only have citizens been speaking out in defense of the HFD – they have also been backing the Hingham Police Department, the Weymouth Police Department, and Sgt. Chesna’s family.
“The voices of support have far outweighed the voices of opposition,” the union said. “It is abundantly clear the vast majority of people support the thin blue line for exactly what it represents.”
The firefighters union pointed out that the Thin Blue Line has existed for over 100 years.
“It has always, and will always, represent the men and women of law enforcement that hold the line between peace and chaos,” the group said. “Honoring the sacrifices made by the men and women of law enforcement is not political. Period.”
The union urged the town to reconsider its decision to remove the flags.
“Otherwise, we regret to inform you that over the past 4 days no member of Local 2398 was able to sacrifice his or her moral fortitude in order to remove the flags from the apparatus. As we said before, our support for our brothers and sisters in blue is unwavering. The flags have continued to fly with honor every day. They will have to be removed by someone other than a member of this union,” the post read.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Sgt. Chesna’s wife, Cindy, said she initially received an outpouring of support from politicians and community members after her husband’s murder two years ago.
“Part of this tribute included the thin blue line flag which, to this day, is displayed everywhere in my home, on our clothing, cars and in various places of our town and many other towns,” Cindy wrote. “The thin blue line flag is not a political statement and does not represent an opposition toward anything. It simply represents the police officers role of separating the good from the bad while creating order from the chaos.”
She noted that no one had an issue with the Thin Blue Line at the time of her husband’s murder, and that officers were still treated with “the respect that they so deserve.”
But a lot has changed since then, she said.
“Two years later I am witnessing the complete opposite from a lot of the people who looked me straight in the eyes at [Mike’s] wake and promised to always be there for me, offering anything they could do,” Cindy wrote. “Now those same politicians are showing the utmost disrespect to our officers with this reform bill and even a certain town…are disrespecting our officers by demanding that the thin blue line flag be removed from their fire trucks.”
Cindy said that such acts constitute “a personal attack on everything Mike stood for as a police officer and a decorated Army veteran.”
Sgt. Chesna’s widow admonished those who permit and support public distain for law enforcement officers.
“My children are growing up in a world where police are vilified. Their father was not a villain, he was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice. His memory should never be tarnished by anyone,” Cindy wrote.
Approximately 80 people participated in a virtual Hingham Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday night to discuss complaints made about the Thin Blue Line flags, The Anchor reported.
Several of those in attendance demanded that the flags be removed immediately.
Hingham Town Administrator Tom Mayo assured them that city officials will have the flags removed.
“We’re working with fire and police personnel to do this carefully and respectfully so we can move forward as a community,” Mayo said, according to The Anchor.
The flags will be gone “within a couple days,” he added.