To the Editor:
I hope I can address some of the fury being expressed by a small minority, but very loud, people upset that I had the faded blue line on Main Street painted over on Saturday morning. Despite the social media noise, I have heard from large numbers of residents and nearby neighbors in support of seeing that line be removed from Main Street. Prior to the line being removed, I consulted with the police department leadership.
In the tweet I sent out on Saturday, I want to be clear that I did not call the police shameful nor did I call them divisive; I used those words to describe the painted line.
I have great respect for our local department here in Flemington Borough. I spent last year fending off efforts by Councilman Michael Harris to disband the department through a shared services merger with Raritan Township. I worked on their contract in late 2019 and advocated that our officers receive the pay and benefits they work hard for every day. When the previous mayor sold them down the river without consulting the department leadership about their future before selling the very building they are based in, I fought to make sure they would have a future home in the borough, possibly at great taxpayer expense and in consultation with them. It would have been easy for me to say we should just get rid of the department as some elected officials tried to do. Instead, I fought for them and made sure they had the contract they asked for as a way to preserve their future here in the borough.
The line was not placed on our Main Street in 2016 out of police solidarity in the way many seem to believe it was. It was placed there only after a member of council, Brian Swingle, was upset that a local community arts group placed a Black Lives Matter sign in their window. It was placed there, on our Main Street, in opposition to Black Lives Matter by this particular councilman. This same councilman actually called people representing BLM “terrorists” in a community meeting held to try to smooth over the division among residents his actions caused in our community.
Since I took office as mayor, I’ve heard sporadically from residents of Flemington Borough — people I represent as mayor — that the blue line made them feel unwelcome. Any time a community member feels unwelcome in the town I am mayor of, it’s a problem for me. Since George Floyd was murdered, the crescendo of outrage over the line picked up. It wasn’t outrage at the police, but was outrage over a symbol running down our Main Street that has been recently co-opted by white supremacists.
Since yesterday, I am disappointed in the vitriol hurled at me by people claiming to be police officers. This has included outright racism, homophobia, transphobia and threats to my well-being. Those threats serve to reinforce that I made the right decision because it enlightened me to what black Americans deal with every single day.
We can all do better as a community when we learn to respect each other as human beings, and don’t conflate platitudes with praise. Support should always come in the form of mutual respect and for the common good. I’m sorry in that regard that I seem to have let you down with confusion over my desire to represent the entire community that elected me with an unfounded assertion that I don’t respect the police; nothing could be further from the truth and I believe my ongoing actions to support our Flemington Borough officers speak louder than the hysteria over the removal of a line down Main Street.
Mayor, Flemington Borough