Weymouth, MA – The Weymouth Fire Department (WFD) is now flying one of the Thin Blue Line flags it received from the Hingham firefighters union after Hingham city officials demanded they be removed from the city’s fire engines.
The WFD affixed one of the gifted flags to the back of its own fire engine on Monday morning, the Weymouth Patch reported.
The Hingham Firefighters Local 2390 had been flying the Thin Blue Line flags from its fire engine in memory of slain Weymouth Police Sergeant Michael Chesna, a 42-year-old father of two who was murdered in the line of duty while chasing a suspect on foot on July 15, 2018.
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 union explained in a July 23 Facebook post that’s members it began flying Thin Blue Line flags from the town’s fire apparatus in observance of the two-year anniversary of Sgt. Chesna’s line-of-duty death.
“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 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 July 27.
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 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.
Approximately 80 people participated in a virtual Hingham Board of Selectmen’s meeting on July 28 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 would have the flags taken down.
The firefighters union previously said that its members could not bring themselves to remove the flags, so they teamed up with area law enforcement officers and other first responders to take them down on their “own terms” at approximately 7:30 a.m. on July 30, the union said in a Facebook post.
“We were aware of an impending order to remove the flags from the apparatus,” the post read.
“We did not want to risk the chance of having these flags removed from the trucks in a disrespectful manner. The decision was made to conduct the removal of the flags on our own terms to provide the highest level of respect that they deserve,” the post continued.
The union “proudly” donated the flags to the Weymouth Police Department (WPD).
The WPD participated in the Thin Blue Line flag removal ceremony, according to the union.
“Police officers from the night shift, who worked along side Sgt. Chesna removed the flags from our trucks,” the firefighters union said. “The flags will be brought to the Weymouth Police Headquarters where they will continue to fly with honor.”
Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts President Rich MacKinnon announced on July 30 that one of the Thin Blue Line flags originally flown by the Hingham Fire Department will now “be making a tour around Massachusetts to be flown from fire trucks in communities that support public safety.”
MacKinnon called the gesture “an act of solidarity.”
“Our Brothers and Sisters in blue have been under unprecedented and seemingly unrelenting attacks,” the union president said. “This has occurred in the form of anti-labor legislation on Beacon Hill, anti-police rhetoric in the media, and overall negative sentiment towards the good men and women that put on a uniform every day and strive to protect and serve.”
MacKinnon noted that the Hingham firefighters union “[held] strong for over a week” after city leaders deemed the Thin Blue Line flags to be “offensive.”
“When the tour concludes, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Weymouth Police Union and Weymouth Fire Local 1616, will present the flag which was flown in support for our family in blue all over the Commonwealth, to the Chesna family,” he wrote.
The Hingham firefighters union said it was thankful for the outpouring of support it has received over the course of the past week, and that it will continue to stand in “solidarity” with law enforcement.
“We will continue our unwavering support for our brothers and sisters in law enforcement and first responders everywhere,” the firefighters union said.
In a Facebook post on July 26, 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.