FAIR LAWN, NJ - Mayor Kurt Peluso's order for police to remove thin blue line face masks at the borough's 9-11 commemoration has provoked a petition asking individuals to denounce the action.
Of the 34,000 residents, there are currently more than 900 signatures (as of Sept. 16 in the evening) on the Change.org petition site, which allows individuals to start and sign petitions anonymously, if they choose.
The 9-11 commemoration was an event to bring the public together, Peluso said. "It was not a time to be political."
Peluso contends the thin blue line mask and the development of the flag in 2014 was in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. "De-escalation was key," he said. "Social media so often makes things all or nothing. We can disagree and talk about it later, I just didn't want that happening on 9-11."
The petition was started by "ConcernedCitizens FairLawn" and was directed at Peluso, the four council members, and the borough.
People, both named and un-named signed the petition based on some of the following language:
We the undersigned of this petition denounce the actions of Fair Lawn, NJ Mayor Kurt Peluso's ordering of members of the Fair Lawn Police Department to remove face masks honoring those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, the Thin Blue Line American Flag.
Mayor Peluso's actions politicized a day in which we remember those that perished in the terror attacks of 9/11...
For a ceremony that was allegedly planned in advance, this was a rather sad tribute to those we lost.
On the Black Lives Matter website, the movement is defined as follows:
#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.
According to a website titled ThinBlueLineUSA.com, in an article written by Daniel Cooper on January 23, 2018, the meaning of the thin blue line flag is as follows:
...the black space above the blue line represents society, order and peace, while the black below, crime, anarchy, and chaos. The Thin Blue Line running between them, “law enforcement,” separates the two, keeping crime separated from society. When placed in the context of a flag, there is an added element of patriotism and, ..., the stars symbolize the citizens who benefit from the sacrifice of our heroes on the line made to protect them. The Thin Blue Line Flag is flown as a matter of principle to show support for the thankless work that they do. Law enforcement often look on it as a reflection of courage and a tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty.
Locals opposed to the order the masks be removed see it as an action against the police, but Peluso said that wasn't the case.
"Whether people like it or not, the Blue Lives Matter movement has become politicized," he said. Peluso said New York City police did not wear such masks on 9-11, and said he has received many emails and texts of support for his action.
"It's unfortunate," he said, "but that's how people see this."
Peluso said he has met with the borough manager and the police and to develop a new mask with the thin blue line, fallen Fair Lawn officer Mary Ann Collura's badge number, and the Fair Lawn Police insignia, which was approved by the governing body in late August.
Peluso said on Sept.16 on his Facebook page that he has "and will continue to support [the] Police Department; just because I wanted only one flag represented by this Borough on September 11th doesn’t mean I am anti police. This is why conversations are so important."
Email requests for comments from the Fair Lawn Borough Council and the Fair Lawn Police PBA were not immediately returned.