PRESS RELEASE: Community Organizations Renew Calls to Demand the Ottawa Police Association Take Down “Thin Blue Line Flag”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Community groups, including Horizon Ottawa, the Coalition for More Surveillance (CAMS), 613-819 Black Hub and the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) are renewing calls for the removal of a flag that displays the far-right "thin blue line” symbol at Ottawa Police Association headquarters. These calls come after members of the Ottawa police force recently wore jerseys bearing the same symbol in a hockey game.

In May 2020, George Floyd was killed by police, sparking international condemnation of police violence and a surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Photos on Google Street View clearly show that The Ottawa Police Association (OPA) erected their “thin blue line” flag later that summer in response to backlash rather than to “remember fallen officers” as they claim. Photos before 2020, all the way up to the earliest photos in 2007, show no sign of the flag.

In the months following Floyd’s murder, far-right agitators frequently used the “thin blue line” flag, claiming it represents the police standing between order and chaos. Given the context of the protests, it was widely criticized as a symbol of support for police violence and in opposition to systemic change.

“Given the timeline, the argument that the reason for putting up this flag is meant to “remember fallen officers” rather than a reaction to community pushback and activism around police violence and racism doesn't really add up,” says Sam Hersh, board member at Horizon Ottawa. “Not only has the Police Union been ignoring directions to remove their flag, but to also see this racist symbol on jerseys proves they just don’t care about repairing their reputation.”

Residents first asked the Ottawa Police Association  to remove the flag in 2021.Diane Deans, then Chair of the Police Services Board, also wrote a letter asking the OPA to remove the flag, and Chief Sloly banned the patch bearing the symbol on officers’ uniforms. The symbol has also caused controversy and we have seen its use restricted by police services in Toronto and Vancouver, as well as by the RCMP. Efforts are currently underway to ban the symbol province-wide in Quebec.

The current Police Services Board has so far been silent on the matter, despite the previous Board’s support for banning the symbol. Community groups are calling on the Board to take action to remove the “thin blue line” flag and to ensure racist symbolism such as this is banned.

“This is yet more evidence that the problems with the OPS aren’t just the fault of a “few bad apples", said Robin Browne, coordinator of the 613-819 Black Hub. “Despite the Thin Blue Line symbol being banned from OPS uniforms, rank and file officers have silently supported their union flying the flag at its headquarters for years and the officers wearing it on their hockey jerseys are now blatantly supporting it.”

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FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES:

Sam Hersh
613-663-7018
[email protected]





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