A week or so ago, a reader sent me a private message about a “thin blue line” flag he’d seen displayed in a window of the Indiana Statehouse. It concerned him, because he was aware that the flag was associated with the White Supremacy movement.
I was totally unaware of the flag’s message or existence, so I consulted Google.
According to Wikipedia, “The thin blue line US flag has appeared regularly at Trump rallies. The flag, which ostensibly stands for solidarity with the police, appeared as well at the January 6 United States Capitol attack, during which police officers were beaten and attacked by the mob of Trump supporters and far right extremists.”
Police departments in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles, California have banned police display of the flag because of its associations with views described as “undemocratic, racist, and bigoted.”
For some, the “thin blue line” flag is an expression of solidarity with police officers who have lost their lives on the job.
To others, the black-and-white American flag with a single blue stripe is a potent symbol of the ties between right-wing extremism and American law enforcement.
The tension between those irreconcilable interpretations spilled over in the Los Angeles Police Department this month, when Chief Michel Moore ordered the flag, which was widely displayed in station lobbies around the city, to be removed from public view….
In a department-wide email, Moore said the flag’s original meaning of support for police had been overshadowed when it began appearing at rallies for the Proud Boys and other far-right extremist groups.
“It’s unfortunate that extremist groups have hijacked the use of the ‘Thin Blue Line Flag’ to symbolize their undemocratic, racist, and bigoted views. Flags serve as powerful symbols with specific meanings,” he wrote, adding that officers would still be allowed to display the flag in their personal work spaces, lockers and personal vehicles
My correspondent’s knowledge of the contested meaning of the flag led him to do some further digging; after attending a downtown meeting, he visited the Statehouse in an effort to determine just whose office was responsible for the display. He learned that–as you have probably guessed from the title of this post– the office was that of Indiana’s Attorney General, Todd Rokita.
That would be the same Todd Rokita who has consistently pandered to the GOP’s extreme Right, the Todd Rokita who has enthusiastically repeated his endorsement of indicted former President Trump, and thrown the weight of his office behind anti-abortion extremists– the same Todd Rokita who has now been charged by an Indiana judicial watchdog with violating professional conduct rules while conducting his unhinged vendetta against the Indiana University doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.
The complaint against Rokita was filed by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission–not by a partisan political body. (Rokita is currently paying the outside lawyers defending him against those charges with our tax dollars.)
Is it possible that Rokita was unaware that the “blue lives matter” flag had been hijacked by White Supremacists? Sure. (Rokita isn’t known for doing meticulous research.) But even giving him the benefit of that doubt, display of the flag is problematic. It originated in response to the multiple demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd, and even at the beginning was widely seen as a criticism of Black activism and support for “active” policing tactics.
Purposeful display of that flag thus sends a message to Black Hoosiers about the loyalties of their state’s Attorney General, who is supposed to serve the interests of all of the citizens of Indiana without favoritism or bias.
The office is supposed to represent the state in cases involving the state’s interest, provide legal defense to state officials or agencies in court, and provide formal advisory opinions on constitutional or legal questions to state officials.
Rokita has used it to wage culture war.
He regularly joins with other Republican AGs in national, highly partisan cases that do not involve Indiana, and he is currently fighting to keep an ethics opinion involving his own “side” employment secret. His persistent, unwarranted attacks against the doctor who aborted a ten-year-old who’d been viciously raped–a doctor who’d followed all applicable laws–is beyond disgusting.
Given what we know of Rokita and his ambitions, I’d be willing to bet that he knew about the White Nationalist associations of that flag, but even if he didn’t, its display is a highly inappropriate signal of where his partialities lie.
I don’t know who the Democrats will run against him, but that person already has my vote–and deserves yours. Rokita needs to go.