Protesters rally outside Newton fire station after mayor orders removal of memorial flag

NEWTON, MASS. (WHDH) - A flag fight is underway in Newton after the city’s mayor ordered firefighters to remove a memorial flag.

More than 200 demonstrators gathered outside the fire station Monday night in support of allowing the department to fly the Firefighters Remembrance Flag or “Thin Red Line” flag.

A passerby reported the department to town officials early last week and Mayor Ruthanne Fuller released a statement reminding department heads that only the American Flag and Newton banners may hang on the sides of buildings.

Rich Cruz, a 20-year veteran of the department, said he was upset to see the flag come down without any kind of investigation.

“It means something to us because of the fire department,” he explained. “It has no bearing on anything else.”

The mayor’s office released a statement that read, “The Mayor supports the values embedded in the Firefighters Remembrance Flag and is deeply grateful for the sacrifices made by our firefighters. This is not about this particular flag. Rather, this is about not putting the City in a position of censoring endorsing which banners and ideas put forward by our employees will be on the sides of our buildings.”

Supporter Bob Dunn said he could not understand why someone would be offended by the flag in the first place.

“Maybe they don’t really understand the meaning of the ‘Thin Red Line,'” Dunn said. “Maybe they misinterpreted that. So, maybe by doing this we can share the knowledge of what it really means.”

Kathy Malone was among the many protesting outside the fire station. She lost her brother, Boston Fire Lt. Ed Walsh, in a massive Back Bay blaze back in 2014.

“I think for the fallen, my brother and Mike Kennedy that have passed doing what they went to work for, just a normals day work, lost their lives to protect others,” she said. “We have to continue to show respect to them.”

The mayor’s office also noted that Newton employees should only wear face coverings that are solid, floral or striped and should avoid any with symbols or insignia.

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