YORK, Maine — Charlie Black, the son of fallen State Police Trooper Charles Black who died 55 years ago this month, said Monday night it is “time to move forward, be positive and stop the name calling,” days after he removed a Thin Blue Line flag from a York Street pole to honor his father.
“I hope we can discuss this civilly. A lot of comments on social media really haven’t been civil and they’re not healthy for the town,” he said. But he also made the point that “the Thin Blue Line symbol belongs to us and we’re not going to let anyone hijack it. We’re not giving it up.”
He said as a way to turn the situation around, he is planning to start a nonprofit “in support of Maine’s law enforcement officers. I’m thinking of doing something positive about this.”
Black was among a number of people who spoke at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting about the flag, which was taken down by Black and his mother, former selectman Mary Black Andrews, last week.
The flag raised concerns among members of the York Diversity Forum, who spoke with town officials about the message that could be sent by a flag which was used along with other symbols by white nationalists at the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In the days after the York Weekly wrote an article about the situation, there was a significant outcry from residents, particularly on social media, who supported Black’s right to fly the flag, expressed support for law enforcement officers and disagreed with the concerns that had been raised.
Some of those who spoke at the meeting enforced that sentiment. Shawn Darrow, a York police officer who said he was speaking only for himself, said he was concerned that by raising this matter the town is giving power to the Unite the Right movement, which organized the Charlottesville rally. He said the head of the movement also held an American flag at a rally the following day “as his unifying symbol of hate.”
“You gave him and his hate group a voice, you gave him power. That’s what they want,” he said. “You let him sow this perfect town with hate, unrest and controversy.”
Resident Michael Dow took umbrage with “bullies who use the word ‘racist’ to harm individuals. Modern race mongers will call someone racist and demonize people they know nothing about. It’s a political technique.”
Resident Amy Phalon, however, took a very different view. She called the flag a “blue lives matter” flag and said it “has been adopted by a racist backlash movement in opposition to a civil rights movement that seeks to end state violence against Americans — the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Moreover, she said the flag — a black and white American flag with a single blue line — is a violation of the U.S. Military Flag Code, that she said states it is inappropriate to change the flag in any way, such as “altering the color.”
Black acknowledged that “I own a piece of the blame for this” current situation by putting up the flag on a pole on York Street as opposed to on his own private property, which “I agree I probably shouldn’t have done.” But he added “a lot of people” own a piece of the blame. “The town manager does, my mom does, the diversity forum does, the York Weekly certainly does, all deserve part of the blame pie we’ve arrived at.”
But he said he is hopeful that the nonprofit organization he plans to start can change that. He said he envisions a group that will create a road race, champion a charity license plate dedicated to law enforcement officers, and undertake other similar measures.
“Hopefully, York will become known as Maine’s capital for law enforcement positiveness rather than a community that is potentially racist,” he said. “Hopefully our version of what that symbol means will win out in people’s perspective.”
Black’s father was fatally shot in the line of duty responding to a bank robbery in South Berwick in July 1964, just weeks before his son was born.