A police flag hung inside a covered memorial for slain Davis police Officer Natalie Corona has been stolen twice in the last two days, according to the Davis Police Officers Association.
Now, Davis officers are volunteering to stand guard by the memorial, near where police say Kevin Limbaugh ambushed Corona on Jan. 10, shooting and killing her.
The volunteers hope the guard will prevent further thefts of the police flag, also know as the Thin Blue Line flag.
Debate over the Thin Blue Line flag’s use and meaning is also intensifying following a Facebook post by a UC Davis student group and support from Black Live Matter Sacramento.
A now-deleted Facebook post by the UC Davis Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission stated that the flag “has been popularized by the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ crowd” and called the flag anti-black. The post said in part:
“We would like to directly address that this flag represents an attempt by law enforcement to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement. “Blue Lives Matter” was the police response to Black communities drawing attention to the reality of police violence. This was done in an effort to evade accountability and critical awareness of police treatment of communities of color. The flag has also been used by the alt-right, and is often seen side by side with the confederate flag. To decontextualize the flag would be an erasure of its symbolism of political repression and white supremacy.”
The commission could not be reached for comment.
The post garnered support from the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter.
“I’ve heard the blue line — the thin blue line symbolism existed prior to the (Blues Lives Matter) movement, and that’s fine — but right now, it’s what symbolizes the movement,” chapter founder Tanya Faison said. “We’ve been getting a lot of death threats. We’ve been called a lot of racial slurs. So, I think it kind of reinforces what we already think about the flag and about the movement … it is built on racism, and it is an anti-black symbol.”
Randy Sutton, a retired police officer of 34 years and national spokesperson for Blue Lives Matter, argued the flag is anything but racist.
“This whole controversy over this photograph of this beautiful young woman, this police officer who gave her life in the line of duty, is shameful,” Sutton said. “This flag was never created to intimidate anyone. This flag was created to show respect for those who have given their lives in the line of duty.”
Sutton blamed the flags’ disappearance on Black Lives Matter, which, in a Facebook post, requested Blue Lives Matter flags: “We are taking all donations of Blue Lives Matter flags acquired on the street (not bought),” the post read.
“Black Lives Matter Sacramento actually used this tragedy of this woman’s senseless murder to put a bounty out on the flag,” Sutton said. “So, the fact that the flag was stolen is not a shock because Black Lives Matter basically implored people to do it by saying they’re for an art project.”
Faison said theft and vandalism of Corona’s memorial was not their intent.
“We wanted to get some flags donated to us, but we don’t want money being paid to the people that are selling them,” she said. “It wasn’t created to incite, you know, people to go out and go steal things and vandalize places.”
A memorial for Corona will take place at 11 a.m. Friday at the UC Davis ARC. A procession will lead to her Arbuckle hometown in Colusa County.
In the days leading up to her service, Faison said now is the right time to be having this conversation.
“All year in 2018, people were being killed every two and three months by law enforcement and there was no hesitation to come and criminalize the person that was killed or talk bad about them or their family. It was even done by the media,” she said. “So, it’s always right the time. The flag is being pushed up and we’re getting harassed about it right now.”
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, whose department has seen its own relationship frayed with the black community, said the community and police must be able to come together.
“This is not sustainable,” he said. “We can’t continue to have an expectation that everybody can thrive in our community with certain segments of our community not trusting the police department and us not continually trying to improve that relationship, which also includes looking at ourselves.”