Published Friday, Sept. 21, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News
controversy over old glory
Smaller U.S. flags to adorn fire trucks, city says
BY SANDRA GONZALES
Once again, Berkeley is at the center of controversy: this time over the removal of large American flags from city fire trucks and engines, which drew a chorus of criticism.
But city officials say it was a misunderstanding blown out of proportion. They say they intended to replace the flags with smaller ones that are less attractive targets to demonstrators who might be tempted to yank them off the fire rigs as they had done during gulf war protests a decade ago.
``On the East Coast and elsewhere, everybody has heard about Berkeley, California. The political climate in Berkeley is like no other in the Bay Area, and that is part of the equation here,'' said Rick Guzman, president of the Berkeley Firefighters Association, which supports the move. ``People go to Berkeley to demonstrate because we are tolerant of it.''
Wednesday, the city manager and other top officials ordered ``over-sized'' flags -- about 4-by-3-foot -- removed from emergency fire vehicles as a pre-emptive measure in anticipation of anti-war protests such as the one Thursday on the University of California-Berkeley campus.
``We don't need a firefighter trying to defend the flag on their rig while fighting a fire or trying to rescue someone,'' said Berkeley Assistant Fire Chief David Orth. ``We have a long history of having our apparatus attacked.''
But Mayor Shirley Dean said the move to replace the flags didn't occur until after the outpouring of opposition. ``I'm delighted that they are now scrambling to find smaller flags and have come to their senses,'' she said.
The initial news release issued Wednesday by the city manager's office said only that they would monitor the decision to remove the large flags and explore establishing a protocol for the ``respectful, appropriate and safe display of flags on city vehicles.''
Thursday, Orth stressed that they will be replacing the flags as soon as they find smaller ones. He said that the rumors snowballed after members of the fire department anonymously released misinformation to the media that all flags were being removed. This, in turn, led to various discussions on talk radio and hundreds of calls to City Hall, some from as far away as New Jersey, by those who wanted to complain or find out what was happening.
Guzman said by the time the order filtered to the rank and file, the message was simply to take down the flag with little explanation, angering firefighters.
Though most firefighters understood after they received an explanation, he said, some firefighters are still upset that they have to replace them with smaller flags, believing that the city is bending over backward to the protesters.
Flying a smaller flag doesn't make firefighters any less patriotic, according to Guzman. He said firefighters still have flag decals on the trucks and engines and wear flag pins on their shirts.
Orth said that they planned to have 2-by-3-foot flags on at least five of its seven engines Thursday evening, and would put them on the remaining engines, two ladder trucks and three ambulances as soon as they could find more flags.
Oakland Fire Department spokesman James Williams said the department has no official standard policy on flying flags on trucks or engines, and that he had not even seen any oversize flags on fire rigs.
In San Jose, many firefighters have placed American flags on their engines, uniforms and equipment -- and the public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, City Manager Del Borgsdorf said. Managers are fine with the displays, he said.
San Jose Fire Department spokesman Mark Mooney said the department plans to scale back the size of the larger flags currently mounted on trucks because of a potential safety problem they pose in limiting accessibility to equipment. Eventually, they plan to permanently place a uniform flag, about 24 inches by 38 inches, on a mast on fire vehicles.
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09-21-2001, 03:52 PM #1
Update on Berkeley Flag ControversyLiving the dream...
09-22-2001, 10:17 PM #2
"We have a long history of people attacking fire apparatus."SNIP.What you need is a short history of well PUBLICIZED POLICY by multiple medias which clearly states that ANYONE messing with fire apparatus or personnel will be SHOT ON SIGHT by attending law enforcement officials.Realistically arresting them is the only real option so EXCERCISE IT.Chain gang labor works well for the perps to get an idea of why this isn't a laughing matter.Oh yeah I forget,California doesn't have the cahonies for that kind of punishment.
09-22-2001, 11:11 PM #3
- Join Date
- May 2000
- DFW area of Texas
Ahh the beauty of free speech!
Firefighters from across the nation have spoken and the PRB has heard!
Ya'll remember that American Indian - uh Native American - from the TV commercial with the tear on his cheek?
That how mongo feel now.
You boyz and girlz are gonna make some damn fine conservatives!
[ 09-22-2001: Message edited by: mongofire_99 ]It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!
09-23-2001, 02:46 AM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2001
- World's largest open-air insane asylum... Santa Cruz CA
Hey, personal opinion only... but anybody who attempted to take the Colors from MY engine would quickly become acquainted with the business end of a Halligan!!!Remember the brothers... FDNY 9/11/01
I.A.C.O.J. for LIFE!
09-23-2001, 04:18 PM #5
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
- Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!
Keep in mind that they have the right to assemby (with the proper permits, I assume) and their right to free speech. They do not have the right to violate law. If it is on the rig and they take it, they have broken the law. Arrest them and incarcerate them. Now, THAT would give them something to protest. That might end their long history of targeting FD rigs.
I agree; how passive would the folks of Berkeley, CA be if they and not NYC had been the target? I see cells of militant squirrels attacking them because clearly, they are nuts!
And, I will take it a step further by stating that it shouldn't take a national tragedy to show your love for your country. The flag is the reminder that should be displayed proudly EVERY DAY.
Do us proud, Berkeley FD. Fly the flag.
[ 09-23-2001: Message edited by: Chief Reason ]Visit www.iacoj.com
Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)
09-23-2001, 05:13 PM #6
They'd still be passive as hell because outside of Public Safety out there nobody's got any balls.The main populace at least in the younger set has no comprehension of what it takes to get the job done.Just like cattle,absolutely clueless.Couldn't see a tree in the forest.They should get their passive asses to NY to help the brothers then they might get a clue what excessive liberalism gets you!Screw berkley!PTB-FTM and trust me we know where you MUTTS are. T.C.
09-23-2001, 05:20 PM #7
- Join Date
- Jun 2001
- U.S.A. and proud of it!
I agree with you 3greyhounds. You mess with my flag, you will get a very close look at the working ends of my denver tool! Thats if the other boys dont show you the other use for the 12' pike pole!Firefighter/NREMT-B/Hazmat Tech
To the Lord Jesus Christ: Thanks for providing a career where we can make a difference.
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