Winnipeg councillor under fire after posting tweet using ‘thin blue line’

Markus Chambers says the intent of a post using “Thin Blue Line” imagery was to pay respect to fallen members of Canadian law enforcement, but advocates and academics say the symbolism is associated with hate. @_MorganModjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

The chair of the Winnipeg Police Board and city councillor Markus Chambers is facing criticism for the use of Thin Blue Line imagery, which some community members and advocates say is a problematic image.

In a now-deleted Tweet, Chambers offered condolences to Edmonton police constables Brett Ryan and Travis Jordan, who were killed in the line of duty, alongside an image of a Black Canadian Flag – the “Thin Blue Line” — passing through the centre, the symbol now categorised by experts as a direct rebuttal to Black Lives Matter.

The Tweet spurred an open letter from Winnipeg Police Cause Harm signed by other community groups calling for Chambers’ removal, calling the posts “deeply alarming” and the imagery a hate symbol. The letter noted other Canadian cities have banned the image.

Kevin Walby, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg, signed the letter, and says the symbol is akin to a confederate flag.

“This symbol is associated with hate,” said Walby. “It’s very clear the thin blue line symbol is very closely indexed to other hate symbols.

“It’s completely irresponsible to use the symbol and there has to be some kind of consequence for doing that. There’s no real margin for error when you’re in a position of responsibility like that, to use hate symbols.”

In a statement to CityNews, Chambers says he meant no harm by posting the image.

“I posted a tweet last week expressing condolences for the unfortunate loss of the two Edmonton police officers. My intent in this post was to convey condolences to the families and the community on this horrific loss of life. While the photo I selected has been construed by some as a White supremacist symbol, I can certainly confirm as a person of colour and a person committed to equity and inclusion my intent was only to extend condolences for this horrendous loss publicly.”

Chambers noted since his post another Canadian police officer in Quebec has since been killed in the line of duty. He says he stands by his remarks.

“Our focus should be on the families and communities impacted by the senseless violence. I will not be apologizing for my sincere heartfelt sorrow of these events.”

He said he deleted the tweet and changed the image because the post was being dominated and “co-opted” by anti-police groups, to take what he says was a message of condolence and use it for their own narrative.

But Walby says he feels the use of the symbol, despite intentions, should come with consequences, saying police and police officials need to be more receptive to the concerns of the public.

“It so clearly indexed to this white-supremacist response to Black Lives Matter, you can’t just decide that Thin Blue Line means: ‘Hey let’s all get along and be happy and love one another. You can’t do it. It’s entrenched in this kind of range of connotations.”

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