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Mass. fire union to ‘pick up the torch,’ taking thin blue line flag on tour of state

The move follows a weeklong conflict between the town of Hingham and the fire department over the display of the flags

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By Janelle Foskett

HINGHAM, Mass. — The Massachusetts state firefighters association of the IAFF announced Thursday that it plans to tour a thin blue line flag recently ordered to be removed from a Hingham fire truck.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts made the announcement following a weeklong conflict over the fire department’s display of the thin blue line flags, which were originally purchased and displayed after the 2018 killing of Weymouth Police Sgt. Michael Chesna as a way for firefighters to show support for law enforcement.

Hingham Fire Chief Steve Murphy and Police Chief Glenn Olsson ordered thin blue line flags be removed from atop fire trucks, noting that the flags have recently “taken a different political meaning,” and as such, the flags are in violation of a long-standing town policy that forbids displaying any political messaging on town property.

The president of Hingham’s fire union, Lt. Chris Melanson, said a non-union member would have to remove the flags, and protesters gathered at Hingham Town Hall for a rally supporting law enforcement. The town then doubled-down on the order, and firefighters removed the flags on Thursday.

Rich MacKinnon Jr., the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, shared a letter stating: “In an act of solidarity, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, working in unison with the Weymouth Police union and Weymouth Fire Local 1616, will pick up the torch initially lit by Hingham Local 2398. The thin blue line flag originally hung by Hingham Firefighters in honor of Sgt. Chesna will be making a tour around Massachusetts to be flown from fire trucks in communities that support public safety.”

MacKinnon also shared that when the tour concludes, the flag will be presented to the Chesna family.