NORTHFIELD CENTER — Township trustees have decided to fly thin red/blue line American flags at Township Hall and the safety building after talking with and gaining support from the Summit County Sheriff’s Department and Macedonia Fire Chief Brian Riley.
Additionally, residents and visitors to the township will see the armed forces flag being flown at the intersection of Route 82 and Olde Eight/Brandywine roads in support of all those who serve in United States military branches.
"These American flags encompass our support not just for our law enforcement officers, but our fire and EMS first responders, while being inclusive of all of our heroes," stated a township press release sent out June 25 by Trustees Russ Mazzola and Rich Reville.
Mazzola and Reville explained that on June 23 the township received information about a planned protest against the thin blue line flag flown at the five-point intersection, and officials immediately conferred with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department about the protest.
Given the nature of social media posts made regarding the potential protest, as well as in consideration of protests held in other areas of the country, Mazzola and Reville felt it was in the best interest of the township to remove the one flag from the intersection for at least the time being.
They said the action was not done, as had been indicated, to cave in to a few protesters, nor was it intended in any way to indicate that the township does not support or respect police departments and their individual officers.
"Rather, the decision was made based on the best information available, the perceived credibility and impact of the threat — particularly the prospective impact on traffic on Route 82 — and above all the desire on the part of the trustees to keep residents and officers safe and maintain community tranquility," according to the release.
The township release added each of the trustees fully supports all law enforcement officers everywhere.
Meanwhile, in his periodic online newsletter to residents, Trustee Paul Buescher said the removal of the thin blue line flag was done without him being consulted. "If I would have been consulted, I would without any hesitation have told them to keep it in place," he said.
"I always have been and always will be a staunch supporter of all of our law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel," Buescher said. "I know that my fellow trustees are not anti-law enforcement. I do believe their knee-jerk decision was based on a fear of trouble and possible destruction of property. In my opinion, it was misguided and done without much thought as to the consequences and backlash."
Mazzola’s and Reville’s press release went on to say, "As was to be expected, many residents expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the removal of the flag. As elected officials, we always strive to be responsive to the collective voice of our residents, while respecting the right of all to peacefully voice dissent.
"So taking this opportunity to do more research and trying to take the best approach to protect all of our residents, while listening to all feedback we received, we saw this as an opportunity to update our flag posture at all of our buildings — one that would continue to show our support not only for police, but for fire/EMS and our military.
"While we recognize we are living in challenging times, we want to make it clear that despite reprehensible, criminal actions perpetrated by a small number of officers, we are proud and supportive of our first responders and military, and want to ensure we show appropriate and deserved gratitude for all those who devote their lives to protecting us as individuals and protecting the rights we cherish in this country."
The release concluded by saying, "This week has given us the opportunity to strengthen that support, while coming together as a community, and for that we can all be thankful. We all want a safe and peaceful community — one that is defined by solidarity and not division."
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