Firefighters ordered to take down Old Glory

By WND Staff

Fire Chief Craig Bronaugh disciplined four firefighters in Maywood, Illinois, after they refused to remove American flags from their lockers and helmets
Fire Chief Craig Bronaugh disciplined four firefighters in Maywood, Illinois, after they refused to remove patriotic decals from their lockers and helmets

A controversy that involves a new flag for a firehouse in Chicago, patriotic stickers on lockers and even the First Amendment has erupted, and officials now are trying to calm down the situation by saying several firefighters who had been sent home may return to work.

The situation, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, disturbed operations at the suburban Maywood fire department.

Its chief, Craig Bronaugh Jr., told the newspaper that four firefighters who had been removed from their duties and sent home actually may return.

But officials with the Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents the suburb’s firefighters, said it had gone too far for only that, and they filed a complaint with the state Labor Relations Board, the Tribune reported.

“It’s about freedom of speech, and there should be nothing wrong with them expressing their patriotism,” spokesman Adam Rosen said.

He explained the department had simply refused to bargain with the union over the issue, creating a hostile work situation.

A report from Chicago’s WGN TV explained what apparently happened.

An order came down from Bronaugh that because of a culture of racism, firefighters had to remove all decals or stickers, including American flags and military stickers, from their city lockers.

Showing a picture of a “monkey smoking a cigarette” that had been taped to one locker, he said, “As a fire chief here, I cannot afford nor tolerate [racism].”

Bronaugh cites a picture of a monkey smoking a cigarette once on a locker as evidence of the department's racist culture
Bronaugh cites a picture of a monkey smoking a cigarette once on a locker as evidence of the department’s racist culture

But several firefighters refused, and ultimately were sent home. They explained the monkey picture had been put on one firefighter’s locker years ago by a buddy who wanted to chide him about his smoking, and the actually tension started, according to the WGN report, when the chief ordered a new American flag be removed from Fire Station 2.

The report said, “It was a new flag the firefighters had bought with their own money to replace the tattered one that had been there for three years. When they weren’t told why, firefighters put American flags on their lockers.”

The Tribune subsequently reported that the chief said the issue was “blown out of proportion.”

“After review, I made a decision to put a department-issued flag on every locker,” Bronaugh said. “I want everyone to be clear: There was never an issue of disposing of the flag.”

The firefighters, including a black man, a Cuban-American and two white men, deny the chief's allegations of racism in the department
The firefighters, including a black man, a Cuban-American and two white men, deny the chief’s allegations of racism in the department

He noted the four firefighters who were relieved of their duties for the shift they were working on were not docked any pay.

But the rest of those involved weren’t ready to close the issue.

“It’s very hurtful and disrespectful the way things turned out,” firefighter David Flowers told the Tribune. “Guys had 9/11 (stickers) … on their helmets. It means a lot to us. Mine has been on (my helmet) since 9/11.”

He had been sent home for refusing to take a Marine Corps sticker off his locker. It had been put there by his father, a former firefighter who was a Marine in Vietnam.

To the chief’s explanation that he was trying to address hints of racism, there was a report on an online blog that the four suspended firefighters – a native Cuban, two white men and a black man – reported there never was any such discord.

“If it’s something offensive, I could see that and guys don’t have a problem with falling in line,” Flowers told WFLD, “but when you’re talking about the American flag, or as in my case a Marine Corps decal, I mean, people take pride in this – this is America, this is where we work.”

See a report posted on the Tribune:

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And watch the WGN account:

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