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Flag Sparks Fire Department Complaint

by Paul Bass | Feb 25, 2014 5:38 pm

(41) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes

Contributed Photo

David Vargas saw a symbol of the Marines and his son’s aspirations when he hung a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in his office at the fire training academy. Gary Tinney saw a symbol of the Tea Party and the Confederacy.

Tinney complained. The flag came down.

But the matter’s not settled, in the view of the New Haven Firebirds, the organization of African-American firefighters.

The incident is the latest instance of how the Tea Party’s movement’s appropriation of the traditional Marine “Gadsden” flag has raised questions about its use by people in government.  (Click here for a story about a similar debate sparked this month by the appearance of the flag symbol on a police cruiser in South Carolina; and here and here for reports on incidents in New York State. Nike came under criticism for using a version of the flag at the Olympics.)

The controversy boils down to how people in 2014 view the yellow flag showing a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike, below the motto “Don’t Tread On Me.”

To Vargas, the fire department’s assistant drillmaster, the flag represents the U.S. military, as it has since Col. Christopher Gadsden first gave it to the U.S. Navy in 1775.

That was the flag Vargas hung in his office at the fire training academy on Ella Grasso Boulevard, he said.

“My son is in the Marine cadets. His goal is to become a Marine,” Vargas said Tuesday. He said he hung the flag in support of his son’s aspirations.

Paul Bass Photo To Tinney, the flag is the symbol a reasserted racist southern Confederacy movement in the form of the Tea Party, a substitute Confederate flag. To Tinney, it is the flag that Tea Party demonstrators wave at raucous, racially-tinged rallies while making crude remarks about and threatening violence against President Obama. (The flag was in display, above, at a 2010 Tea Party rally on Long Wharf; the ralliers took strong exception to the allegation that their movement is racist.) It is the flag they waved when they spat on a black Congressman at an anti-Obamacare rally. (Click on the video to watch.) The flag that members distribute in bulk to symbolize their movement.

That’s the flag Tinney saw in Vargas’s office several weeks ago.

Firefighter recruits were in the building at the time taking an agility test.

“I was taken aback,” recalled Tinney (pictured), a New Haven firefighter who serves as vice-president of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF)‘s regional chapter, which represents some 1,500 members in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “In the last couple of years, I’ve really been paying attention to what’s going on, especially with the rallies. They’re bothersome. When I see the Tea Party flag, I look at the Confederate Flag also. People say it’s a military stance. It used to be military. Now they use it for a different meaning. It doesn’t represent what they thought it represented.”

Given the simmering racial divisions in the fire department, Tinney said, “the last thing we need now is the flag.”

Tinney said Vargas wasn’t in his office at the time. Tinney brought the complaint to firefighter Michael Neal, president of the New Haven Firebirds.

Neal said he in turn brought the complaint to a supervisor, who promised to look into it. It could not be confirmed who the supervisor was.

The flag came down soon after. Capt. Matthew Marcarelli, the academy’s training director, told the Independent Monday that he asked Vargas to take it down. But not because of any objections to the flag itself.

“It was blocking a bookcase,” Marcarelli said. He declined further comment. Assistant Chief Pat Egan said he had noticed the flag and asked Marcarelli to have it removed for the same reason; he said he was unaware of any complaints about the flag itself.

Linked In Vargas (pictured) said he agreed to keep the flag down “because I’m not trying to cause my director of training any problems or cause my department any problems.” But he’s not pleased.

“I’m not a Tea Party guy. I’m not affiliated with the ‘ten-minute Tea Party,’ as I refer to it,” said Vargas, who was born in Puerto Rico. I refuse to give the Tea Party this flag. That’s not what it was meant for. I think it’s a military flag. ...

“The U.S. Navy still flies the flag. Unless our entire U.S. Navy is racist, if that’s what they want to consider racist? A lot of Hispanics and African-Americans are in the U.S. Navy. It was a very ignorant way of looking at it, without even asking me. I found it very disturbing that they went in that direction with it. I found it silly. I guess with them, to coin a phrase with a good friend of mine, they constantly see a nail, and all they do is carry around a hammer. Everything is [about race].”

Neal and Tinney argued that the flag’s recent history demonstrates why it doesn’t belong in a government building. They argued that the official reaction to the matter reflected a need for broader measures to tackle racial bias and insensitivity, both in the department and citywide.

“The symbol alone is something that should not be displayed anywhere in a public building. I wouldn’t want a Confederate flag being hung up in a public building. Just like you wouldn’t want me to hang up something that has the Black Panther Party on my uniform. It’s the same aspect,” Neal argued. “An organization which is negative and has done nothing but done their best to not advance any minority in this country, anyone with color in this country ... They have adopted that symbol. When the symbol was originally developed, it was a positive thing. But once this organization had adopted their symbol as their logo, it went from being positive to negative. We feel that the department—and our union—should take steps on making sure that this city is represented fairly and is not representing anything biased.”

Both Tinney and Neal said they believe Vargas that he wasn’t trying to promote the Tea Party by displaying the flag. The issue, they said, is the department’s “ignorance” of the flag’s current role in American life and its lack of interest in addressing that ignorance.

“He eventually took it down. What bothers me is he took it down under protest. He felt he did nothing wrong, even after individuals told him it was disrespectful,” Neal said. “I’m not going to say he should be disciplined. I want to see him being reeducated.”

Asked for comment, Fire Chief Michael Grant said he had no knowledge of the incident.

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posted by: Noteworthy on February 25, 2014  5:54pm

It never stops and never ceases to amaze me how members of the NHFD continue to find things about which to bitch. Clearly, the department needs to be re-engineered because people like Tinney have too much time on their hands which leads to stories of pettiness.

posted by: Edward Francis on February 25, 2014  6:01pm

“Athletic apparel company Nike uses the image of a rattlesnake coiled around a soccer ball for an ongoing, patriotic “Don’t Tread on Me” campaign in support of the United States men’s national soccer team. The phrase has become a rallying cry for American soccer fans and the Gadsden flag can occasionally be seen at national team games. A representation of the rattlesnake is contained on the inside of their uniforms, over the heart, with the initials “D.T.O.M.”, which were used in the 2010 World Cup. The Philadelphia Union Major League Soccer expansion team in 2010, incorporated the coiled snake into its logo that was unveiled in May, 2009.”

It’s obvious that many different groups have adopted the symbol for a positive reason.

posted by: Walt on February 25, 2014  7:01pm

Admittedly I do not know the full history of the snake flag   but I always thought it signified good parts of history as Vargas says, and although I do not really like the far -out new Tea Party folks,  it often seems Tinney sees racism in just about everything, from tests to this flag and would probably panic if a fireman drank a cup of tea in the firehouse.

His views are automatically tainted to me,  although who knows,  he may be right occasionally.

The story looks like the other fire officials removed the flag primarily to keep Tinney off their backs.

Am I wrong?

posted by: DingDong on February 25, 2014  7:06pm

I thought it was the US national soccer team flag.  I mean, it was until the Tea Party tried taking it over.

posted by: Jerry Giraffe on February 25, 2014  8:00pm

Come on. Calling the tea party racist, or rife with tinges of racism, or a resurgent confederate movement is ignorant.

Frankly—it’s misrepresenting and disingenuous. Shame.

posted by: Rob Smuts on February 25, 2014  8:21pm

Lt Tinney has jumped the shark.  There is a double-fallacy wrapping a real tragedy here.

The first piece is what the Gadsden flag means.  In 2003, when you saw a Fox News blow-hard with a US flag pin, you knew full well that he was wearing it to push Bush’s war-mongering agenda and imply that any opposition was un-American.  That did not mean that the US flag belonged to those yahoos or meant what they were using it for.  The Confederate flag has no meaning apart from defending a white, racist power structure - but the Gadsden flag may be being used by the Tea Party folks, but that’s not all or even most of what it means (as a proud Massachusetts native, I refuse to concede the “Tea Party” to those folks, either - it was a historic protest about democratic voice and an opportunistic business move by a faction of merchants as much as it was an anti-tax revolt).

The second fallacy is that even if it was solely or mostly a symbol of the Tea Party movement, whether that is something that merits being banned from the workplace with the potential for discipline or “reeducation.”  Sharp lines are tough in a democratic society, but I have seen plenty of Obama signs up in City Hall offices over the last six years and I would be very weary of just banning a Tea Party symbol.  While I firmly believe (and think it is pretty objectively true) that many, many Tea Baggers are motivated by racism towards our first African-American president, I don’t feel comfortable or that it’s accurate saying that that means you are therefore racist to be a Tea Partier.

The tragedy that this ridiculousness obscures is that there is plenty of work that still needs to be done on opportunity and justice in the NHFD.  The two biggest issues - hiring a diverse, qualified workforce and ensuring the best people get promoted without adverse impact - Lt Tinney ended up being a big obstacle when I was CAO, while he focused on stuff that either we couldn’t impact or was ridiculous.  Like this.

posted by: just my view on February 25, 2014  8:35pm

Spot on @Noteworthy.I’m taken aback by this petty tit-for-tat nonsense. Anything to cast the Department in a bad light…

posted by: HewNaven on February 25, 2014  8:59pm

I think all these stories about the Tea Party and the Gadsden Flag prove how easy it is to co-opt another group’s symbol, to associate it with one’s own unrelated movement, and thus unintentionally, but irrevocably, alter the general public’s understanding of that symbol. The lesson is clear: if you witness an outside group using your symbol for their own, you must aggressively disavow them, or face the consequence of losing your symbol.

posted by: cwhig on February 25, 2014  9:20pm

If you want to honor the Marine Corps, why on earth fly a Navy flag?

posted by: member on February 25, 2014  9:26pm

So if there was a group with racists views that chose to use a figure of the Statue of Liberty in their insignia, would I be wrong and be considered to have those views of that group if I choose to put a small Statue of Liberty on my desk at work?

posted by: member on February 25, 2014  9:40pm

The Pan-African flag — also known as the UNIA flag, Afro-American flag and Black Liberation Flag — is a tri-color flag consisting of three equal horizontal bands of (from top down) red, black and green. The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) formally adopted it on August 13, 1920 in Article 39 of the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World,[1] during its month-long convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City.[2][3] Variations of the flag can and have been used in various countries and territories in Africa and the Americas to represent Pan-Africanist ideologies. Several Pan-African organizations and movements have often employed the emblematic tri-color scheme in various contexts.

So The Black Panther Party has used this flag with the exception of a Gold Panther head added to the middle. Should the Pan-African American Flag now if worn on a Firefighters uniform now be considered to represent the views of the black panther party?

posted by: member on February 25, 2014  9:43pm

Because if you notice, in one of the pictures in this article, there is a gentleman over Lieutenant Tinney’s left shoulder with the image of the Pan-African American flag on his sweatshirt.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 25, 2014  10:05pm

I see racism in the Gadsden flag, and I’m white and not prone to easily taking offense.

And there is a big difference between Obama signs and the crap proudly displayed by those folks who listen to Rush, O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck. That being Obama is the President of the United States, and about as inclusive a symbol as America has ever mustered.

Why anyone would display something so archaic as the Gadsden Flag in the workplace is beyond me. But in this day and age it represents Tea Party solidarity more than anything else.

Kudos to those who insisted the symbol be removed.

posted by: robn on February 25, 2014  10:34pm

I thought that for firefighters, a hostile work environment was running through a burning building, not having your feelings hurt by at a freaking flag.

Only in New Haven.

posted by: one_me on February 25, 2014  11:04pm

Here you go Tinney, “reeducate” yourself
The Gadsden flag is a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Positioned below the rattlesnake are the words “Dont tread on me”. The flag is named after American general and statesman Christopher Gadsden, who designed it in 1775 during the American revolution. It was also used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag, along with the Moultrie Flag.
So sad to see how ignorant people are these days.

posted by: Jones Gore on February 26, 2014  12:51am

Ohh Come on man Wow..talking about ignorance.. the flag was used by the Continental Marines during the Revolutionary War.

People who use it today for another reason can not diminish its original meaning. If that was possible then you better not solute the American Flag because the same people you’re referring to wave the American flag as well.

Class over.

posted by: Jones Gore on February 26, 2014  1:02am

I need to say one more thing but regarding sensitivity. Every single time race is raised someone mentions that there needs to be more sensitivity.

I actually think people are do damn sensitive because this flag is a non-issue when you view and understand the flag in proper historic perspective.

posted by: Elm City Lifer on February 26, 2014  7:45am

Looks like there is some history between Tinney and the Vargas family. Getting treaded on should be the least of Dave Vargas’ concerns. But then again maybe Tinney has a point.  His brother Ben was written about in the Hispanic “CONSERVATIVE” online newspaper.

http://www.thehispanicconservative.com/National-Latino-News/latino-firefighter-ben-vargas-physically-assaulted-but-no-press-coverage.html

posted by: Career High School Parent on February 26, 2014  7:46am

My feeling is this, if SOME are offended, then remove it. It is slowly growing legs as a hate symbol. I feel this is a slippery slope. I’m sure those of you who are well versed in religion/world history know about the long history of the swastika? Remember which party then adopted the symbol in the 1920’s??!!

posted by: 32knot on February 26, 2014  10:14am

I have a Gadsen flag pin on my backpack to honor the USMC of which my late brother was a member. In all my years living down South I never knew it was a symbol of the CSA!!??  We are on a slippery slope when a group can unilaterally decide something is offensive and therefore must be discarded from the public forums. The US Navy Jack that flys from the Jack Staff of Commissioned ships is a flag with a snake and the same motto and was put back into use after 9/11 as a way to warn enemies the USA will strike if provoked!!
If we are going to ban military flags for superious reasons we should tell the cop with the Iraqi flag in his office at PDHQ that is visible from Union Ave to take it down as it might offend somebody!!!  I agree that we are becoming too ready to find offense at the drop of a ____ .
NOTE:  the Marines are part of the Department of the Navy, thus the Navy reference.  DON’T TREAD ON ME with wild linkages to something that isn’t so.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 26, 2014  10:29am

In years past this flag was a sign of strength a flag of justice. I find myself still appreciating the power behind it. I also know that if I was to hang it for what it really stands for it would not be seen that way by many it would get a tea party tag.  So I choose not to. But with that said….I think it really sucks that we would let such a small minded group of people steal the history of that flag and what it truly stands for. If the tea party had choose to use the American flag in such a way and it stuck would we be doing the same thing to that flag to?

I think tenny seemed to have turned a mole hill into a mountain on this one. But I can understand the reaction.

posted by: NoClovers on February 26, 2014  11:15am

When did criticism of the President automatically become racist? Does that assume any non-white was racist towards previous administrations? Simply absurd. Stop pushing your assumptions as fact. In no way do I consider myself a tea party supporter but like any good,free society opposition to any power is necessary and should be welcomed ( hence if your intentions are true and honest, it can stand the test of criticism)

With this story, it seems obvious that the need for spotlight struck Mr. Tinney and his fringe group so he went for it. Please learn your history before you embarass yourself. To Mr. Tinney, you are a public servant, act like one and act on behalf of the entire public, not just those of color within your department that can potentially benefit from your selfish actions.

posted by: NoClovers on February 26, 2014  11:46am

In response to people’s “sensitivity”, a heavy dose of get over it is in need. Many times being “offended” is an obnoxious way of injecting your opinion into a conversation where it wasn’t asked. When did it become acceptable to falsely accuse racism at every chance? It’s a very narrow minded way to operate and genuinely frustrating, I would hope people who operate in that manner would see it. Ironically, the reverse is often the case when those who claim racism takes place, apparently it’s not as socially taboo though

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 26, 2014  12:21pm

For over 3,000 years the swastika was viewed by many cultures as a symbol of life, power, and strength. From Buddhists to numerous Native American tribes the swastika had a long history of being used in a positive manner. But as we all know what was once a symbol of beauty was co-opted by German nationalists to promote fear, hatred, and division.

I am in no way comparing Tea Party conservatives to Nazis. Far from it. I’m only saying that the meaning of symbols changes over time. The Gadsden flag is no different. What was once a symbol of the U.S. military is now associated with divisive political debates. I’d prefer that Tinney, Vargas, and their comrades focus on keeping people safe rather than engaging in debates about history and politics.

posted by: Trustme on February 26, 2014  12:27pm

Well said NoClocers.
In this country, this state, and specially this city, people get offended for the anything. I always believed that the person who complains, whines, and cries the most, is probably the biggest offender. Some people really add to racism and truly want racism to continue. I voted for Obama the 1st time, but not the 2nd time. Am I a racist now?

posted by: PH on February 26, 2014  12:34pm

Here’s an easy policy that everyone can follow: don’t hang any flags up at work.

posted by: SwampfoxII on February 26, 2014  1:03pm

@ElmCityProf:  Yes, the Gadsden flag was divisive - during the Revolutionary war. It was used by the “rebels” of that time, you know, those folks who signed and fought to implement the Declaration of Independence. It was seen by the colonial Loyalists and the British government as a traitorous symbol. The fight for civil rights in this country during the 50’s and 60’s was “divisive” wasn’t it? The mere fact that there is a “black firefighters” association in the NHFD is divisive, isn’t it?  Your use of the Swastika as a comparison is highly offensive. Your denial that you are comparing Tea Party members to Nazis is limp, because that’s exactly the biased message you intended to convey.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 26, 2014  9:04pm

The Fallacy in the Fallacy

Rob Smuts has deemed that Lt. Tinney’s objection to the presence of the Gadsden Flag displayed in a NH Firehouse is a “double-fallacy wrapping a real tragedy”. 

The first, he claims, is that the flag used by the “Tea Party folks” means more than what the Tea Party folks mean by its use.  A legitimate response to Smuts on this point is “So what?”  If the flag has duel or even triple meanings and one of those meanings is causing hostility in the work place, it should be taken down.

The second fallacy, according to Smuts, is the unsupported assumption that all Tea Partiers are “racist”, and since we can’t definitively make that assumption, it would be wrong to label the flag a racist symbol. Hence, I assume, the flag should be allowed to stay up.

The problem with Smuts’ argument here is the fact that the so-called non-racist Tea Partiers have not made themselves known.  They have not come out to repudiate the outlandish and obvious racism of their most outspoken and visible members. 

The failure of these supposedly non-racist Tea Partiers to rebuke the racist ones means that they have been willing to allow their organization to be defined by the most virulent racist among them.  As such, the most visible and vocal aspects of the Tea Party movement can legitimately be called racist and the symbols used by this organization can be seen that way as well.  Hence, again, the flag should be taken down.

Smuts’ so-called obscured “tragedy” obscures the fact that the work on “opportunity and justice” cannot be done in an environment where some of the workers feel legitimately threatened by symbols that point in the opposite direction of opportunity and justice.  And the flag of a racist organization hanging in the workplace certainly points in the opposite direction. 


The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee
Immanuel Missionary Baptist Chruch
New Haven, CT

posted by: SwampfoxII on February 27, 2014  12:02am

@Samuel T. Ross-Lee:  Calling the Tea Party a racist organization is an irresponsible and unfounded defamation. I’m not part of the Tea Party but I know quite a few people who are, and they include blacks and Latinos. A recent candidate for Congress from CT, a black man, was a Tea Party supporter. You are smearing an entire group of millions based on resentment of their political principles. The Tea Party isn’t even radical, but simply opposes the continued wild government spending and debt, high taxes, intrusive regulation, and they demand more fiscal responsibility and accountability.  I’m sure the men and women of color who support the Tea Party don’t appreciate your smear one bit. You do not speak for all minorities, sir.

posted by: Rob Smuts on February 27, 2014  1:54am

@Rev Ross-Lee:

On the second fallacy I found, let’s step back from Tea Party and race for a second - I think that the Republican Party is pretty thoroughly homophobic.  Hate is hate, and I think that Bush in 2004 was disgusting in exposing and exploiting homophobia.  I have a pretty visceral reaction to that man - throwing things at the TV and whatnot.

I would think it wrong, however, to demand that someone take a Bush sticker down from their office bulletin board if I had said nothing to dozens of Kerry signs I had previously seen.  Perhaps I would regret that I hadn’t objected to the Kerry signs, since maybe politics shouldn’t be injected into the workplace, but if it’s only seeing a sign I disagree with that makes me think that then it is probably a little late and hypocritical for me to complain…

I agree with Tinney’s political goals in most cases, though we’ve had a lot of disagreements about how to achieve them.  I cannot abide by thought police enforcing politics I agree with, however, any more than politics I disagree with.

But back to the first fallacy.  I don’t agree that the Gadsden flag is a symbol of the Tea Party (especially from someone who’s son is a marine cadet, or, I suppose on the US men’s soccer team).  There is a real difference between an unambiguously racist symbol like the Confederate flag and one that had multiple meanings, some political and some not.  In that space are pictures of Ronald Reagan (a racist instigator if there ever was one for launching his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi), listening to Ted Nugent, happily talking about a vacation to Arizona, or any number of other things that have some association with bigotry but many other meanings.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 27, 2014  4:42am

Mr/Ms. SwampfoxII

Apparently, you find it neither ironic nor strange that you, a non-member of the Tea Party, have to defend them against the charge of racism while their non-racist, minority members remain silent when the racist among them are doing and saying things that are obviously racist.

You should also note, sir/ma’am, that pointing out the fact that there are members of the Tea Party who belong to racial minority groups does not absolve the organization of the charge of racism.

Finally, as I mentioned nothing about the Tea Party’s “political principles”, I mean, outside of the very racist way they present those “principles”, I have no idea how you can conclude that I resent said principles.  I resent their racist words, their racist actions, and their colluding silence about those racist words and racist actions.  That’s what I have stated resentment about concerning this racist organization, their racism.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 27, 2014  10:05am

Mr. Smuts,

Your defense of the first fallacy hinges on being late, not being wrong.  Conclusion: Take the signs (and the flag) down.  They are causing undue discomfort in the workplace.

On the second fallacy: Ronald Reagan, racist though he was (and I can think of MANY more examples besides where he started his campaign to substantiate that claim), was still the President of the United States and deserves the respect of the office, especially in a public building.  The president’s picture being up is a far cry different from a flag whose meaning and intent is uncertain and whose presence is unnecessary. 

Music from Ted Nugent or happy talk about a vacation in Arizona hardly compare either, save the fact that one is praising the bigoted aspects of the aforementioned two so as to make the work place an uncomfortable environment.  The mere presence of the flag in question accomplishes that feat and should be taken down for that reason.

This is not about “thought police enforcing politics”.  This is about not allowing dubious symbols to negatively affect the work place, especially in a public building with employees of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Like this.

posted by: yim-a on February 27, 2014  10:11am

No doubt race is an ever-present reality in all department politics of New Haven government and its various agencies.  This is compounded by the urban/suburban divide, and the differnce of perspectives on life in New Haven.  It’s a rough and tumble world and, for better or worse, race is an all too easy means of garnering support, power, and protection in stressful work environments. 

I don’t work in the police force or fire department so have no insight into the true nature of race relations on a day to day, personal level.  But it is unfortunate when leaders seem all too ready to go on the offensive when there is much grey area and ambiguity.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 27, 2014  10:12am

I agree with all of what Rob said. Well put.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 27, 2014  10:34am

one more thing….but this is ok?

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/make_that_ricci_and_destefano/

posted by: NoClovers on February 27, 2014  11:04am

Call me crazy, but I find it racist that there’s a a divisive union lobbying group comprised and created for only black firefighters. Their sole goal is to divide upon the basis of race and anything they disagree with is automatically racist.

Couldn’t pass the test because you failed to prepare? Test is racist. Disciplined for not adhering to fire department standards? Policies and procedures are racist. Put up a govt flag that isn’t liked. Flag is racist. Haven’t made any headlines lately to promote selfish agenda? Claim racism   Conjures up images of Witch hunts and McCarthyism. Pure lunacy.

Never mind the fact the Supreme Court already determined discrimination occurred in the fire department…against the white guys. Never mind the fact no one else of any political or racial background in the entire fire department took offense to a flag except Mr. Tinney, who rather than doing the mature thing and voicing his concerns to Mr. Vargas and resolving it went directly to the press! If that doesn’t show his true colors then I don’t know what does.

There’s no racism here. You have a Puerto Rican firefighter who is showing support for his son for something he takes interest in.  Something many parents in this city should try. As for the Reverend who commented; I always assumed Church was based upon unity of all and not divisive near inflammatory speech? Sets a poor and disappointing example for the community.

posted by: Brother Sovereign on February 27, 2014  7:17pm

i took a moment to read a few of the comments prior to writing this post, there are so many views on this matter whereas it makes it a little difficult for me to pinpoint a solid response to the topic basis, therefore as always I will deal with the foundation of the situation,” one the dont tread on me” flag is of a military background and foundation, which may also be found on some good ole boys license plate in Texas as many have made the slogan and image a part of the pride of Texas, and one’s private stance is of their own choice, but when a symbol no matter how historical, becomes or is used as the repesentation of one’s aggressive political or racial hate views then offence is inevitable, so in order not to offend in any case all items that may be perceived or known to be controversial or offensive should not be in any environment that could possibly fuel or spark ongoing tension regardless how innocent it appears to be to the one who displayed it, I am ex military S.F. and proud of my tags but if one of them became the symbol of lets say the Black Panther Party of whom I support and roll with, then that tag would no longer be displayed by me in the work place as it may offend someone. So in closing so many are offended by so many things legitimate and non-legitimate to one never knows whats what, so I say “Don’t Tread on Me and I wont Tread on You”. Sovereign.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on February 27, 2014  7:29pm

The latest assault on Black voices in America, be they from private citizens expressing personal opinions, public officials operating within the duties of their offices, or representatives of Black institutions, has been to criticize us for calling out racism for what it is.

The targets and victims of racism are now suppose to have our hands tied behind our backs in the fight against the greatest evils that afflict us by the labels hurled at us, when we speak up and speak out, unfettered by the restraints used to bind us. 

We are “reverse racist” if we merely point out racism.  We are “divisive” and “inflammatory” if we call a racist a racist. We are wrong if we tell it like we see it and have experienced it in a society that has been all too willing to oppress minorities bodies and suppress minority voices. 

And all of this, while the ones who are tagging us with these appellations feel free, also, to label groups to which we belong to protect us from the blunt of these blows “automatically racist” and “pure lunacy”. 

The attempt to set rules of conduct and voice for the African-American church started way back in antebellium days, and those attempts continue today, sadly with the help, then and now, of members within our community who were and are more interested in the “filthy lucre” they received from the majority power structure than they were and are interested in the health, wholeness, and strength of their own community and people. 

There are blatant examples of this reality operating here in New Haven, today. 

Guess what, Mr/Ms. NoClovers, it might be your prerogative to “assume” what you will about how the church is suppose to respond to societal ills.  But, it will always be the church’s prerogative, and mine, to ignore your simplistic assumptions.

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee
Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church
New Haven, CT

posted by: robn on February 28, 2014  10:02am

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that high school kids in Morgan Hills, California can’t wear American flag shirts (they were doing it on Cinco De Mayo and depending upon who you ask, it was either a counter statement or harassment).

Anyway here we are. I don’t think it will be too long before the department is stripped of any political or ethnic symbology including the aforementioned pan-African tri-color.

Be careful what you ask for.

posted by: Edward Francis on February 28, 2014  11:09am

Robn is correct in his analysis and research…The new question is “will exposed tattoos be next on the list”?

posted by: Sumthg4nothg on March 5, 2014  10:47am

He we go again. Something for nothing. Always making noise to get “what’s coming to me”. That is not a raises flag. And I’m sure the firefighter flying it didn’t mean for that flag to represent that.
It’s this way of thinking that is wreaking the city. It’s out of control and getting worse.
It will continue to happen as long as there are tough acting officers with frowns on there face that do nothing to stop this because the are weak cowards.
For shame.  Grow some will you.

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