US Fact check: Thin Blue Line flag has taken a prominent place at Trump rallies
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Claim: An 'anti-Black Lives Matter' flag replaced the American flag behind President Trump during a Waukesha campaign rally
As the 2020 election heads into its final days, a Facebook post is claiming that President Donald Trump replaced the American flag with an “anti-Black Lives Matter” flag at a recent Wisconsin rally.
At issue: A Thin Blue Line flag that was prominently featured behind Trump at an Oct. 24 rally in Waukesha. The flag essentially is a black-and-white version of the American flag, with a single red stripe replaced by a blue one.
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That blue stripe is meant to symbolize police officers as the “thin blue line” between order and chaos.
The Facebook post featured aby author and Dartmouth College English professor Jeff Sharlet, that included a photo and read: “Tonight in Wisconsin. First the anti-Black Lives Matter flag flew outside his rallies, then beside the American flag. Now it has replaced the American flag. That’s significant.”
Alongside the screenshot, the Facebook post read: “Trump flew the anti-Black Lives Matter flag at his rally in Wisconsin. So much for not disrespecting the troops …”
The post in question wascalled “The Other 98%” — a left-leaning nonprofit, according to its bio on Facebook — the day after the rally. The post has been shared more than 2,500 additional times and reacted to by more than 7,200 people.
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So was the flag really flying behind Trump during his Waukesha rally? And is it an “anti-Black Lives Matter” flag?
Was the flag really there?
In a review oftaken by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Thin Blue Line flag is hung prominently behind the risers behind the podium where Trump spoke.
The flag was featured very prominently at the rally — a change from the last several Wisconsin rallies that Trump has held in other cities.
In Janesville, on Oct. 17, the flag was featured on one side of the stage, while a larger American flag was featured on the other side of the stage,. In Mosinee on Sept. 17, Trump spoke in front of Air Force One and no flags were prominently displayed, according to .
So the portion of the post that says that the flag was featured prominently — and more prominently than at earlier rallies — is on the money.
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President Donald Trump’s push for a second poll-defying victory is relying on a hallmark of his first -- raucous campaign rallies that Trump sees as a crucial sign of voter enthusiasm but that pollsters say may only be cementing his defeat. Trump held three rallies Monday, all in Pennsylvania, with three more scheduled Tuesday and as many as five or six a day expected by the weekend. The rallies befit the showman with roots in reality television: blaring music, slick production, video montages, warm-up speeches, Air Force One as a backdrop and the president himself as the headline attraction.
But what about the meaning of the flag?
A controversial flag meant to support police officers
The flag has been popularized by the company “Thin Blue Line USA,” which also sells clothing emblazoned with the symbol. According to the company’s website, the flag is meant to be a sign for “promoting compassion and support for our nation’s police officers.”
The company began marketing the flag in 2014, amid the Blue Lives Matter movement, which itself was launched in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement arose in 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed teen Trayvon Martin in Florida, according to the. Black Lives Matter has been invoked around the country this year during massive protests that were launched after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
In a June 8 article by the Marshall Project, “,” Andrew Jacob, president of Thin Blue Line USA said: “The flag has no association with racism, hatred, bigotry. It’s a flag to show support for law enforcement — no politics involved.”
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According to the article:
"Jacob said the flag was not a direct reaction to the first Black Lives Matter protests — an idea suggested by a previous origin story in Harper’s — but he allows he may have first seen the thin blue line image after those protests spurred the circulation of pro-police imagery online. 'That’s maybe why it came to my eyes,' he said."
Whatever the intended meaning of the flag, it has come to carry different connotations to different people
At protests in Charlottesville in 2017, where white supremacist groups and supporters gathered to protest the removal of Confederate statues throughout the country, the blue-line flag was featured alongside Confederate flags, according to an. (The company disavowed its use in Charlottesville.)
A July 31highlighted a fight between a Massachusetts fire department flying the flags in honor of fallen police officers and community members who felt the flag was an overt display of racism.
A June 9said even police officers have mixed reactions to the symbol, with some departments banning it outright, while others display it on government-owned vehicles.
The Politico report also noted that the flag is controversial because of its likeness to the American flag, and because of the U.S. Flag Code, which states: “The (American) flag should never have placed upon it, nor any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.”
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When asked why the flag was placed behind the president, Wisconsin Trump Victory — the state’s Trump campaign group — did not respond.
To be sure, it is possible to support police officers and the Black Lives Matter movement.
But Trump himself has been harshly critical of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, labeling them as violent and claiming they were stoked by anti-government elements.
Our rating: True
We rate this claim TRUE based on our research. The image and description — that the flag has taken on greater prominence at the Trump rallies in Wisconsin — is on target. And the Thin Blue Line flag has become a prominent part of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement, which arose to counter the Black Lives Matter movement.
That said, while it is possible to support both, Trump has made clear he opposes the Black Lives Matter protests — and made that opposition, and a strong law-and-order message, a prominent part of his reelection campaign. So, those attending the rally or seeing the images could easily see the flag as an “anti Black Lives Matter flag.”
Our fact-check sources
- by The Other 98%, Oct. 25
- , Oct. 24
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 24, “ "
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 17, “ '"
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept. 17, “ "
- Thin Blue Line USA, , accessed Oct. 26
- USA TODAY, Aug. 18, “‘ ”
- , accessed Oct. 27
- Politico, June 9, “ "
- The Marshall Project, June 28, “
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The Daily 202: If Trump wins, these are the 10 most likely explanations for how it happened
Biden acts like the election boils down to a Pennsylvania Senate race. Joe Biden leads President Trump by 10 points among registered voters, 52 percent to 42 percent, in the final national pre-election poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal. Majorities of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and disapprove of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. , for more.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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