On March 30, a controversial flag was spotted flying over Nellie’s Sports Bar in Washington, D.C. Next to the rainbow and the country’s colors, a Thin Blue Line flag was displayed above the well-known gay bar. However, having been adopted by the Blue Lives Matter, a movement started in response to Black Lives Matter, this particular symbol represents fear, oppression, danger, and violence against people of color and the LGBTQ community to many in the United States.
The response to its sighting was swift.
“Nellie’s Sports Bar is cancelled,” No Justice No Pride (NJNP) posted on their Facebook page. “In the wake of the murder of Stephon Clark and non-indictment of the officers who killed Alton Sterling, they have the audacity to fly a flag that tells us they don’t value Black lives…” the post continues to talk about Kayla Moore, a black trans woman who was killed by Berkeley police officers and the judge’s ruling in favor of the city.
“The whole Blue Lives Matter movement was a very consciously crafted white racist response to the rise of a movement for black liberation. It was challenging the validity of state sanctioned violence directed at communities of color primarily in this country,” says David Thurston, NJNP Steering Committee member and Art Director. “It’s critical that establishments in the LGBTQ community commit to not perpetuating the toxic white supremacist, transphobic, trans-misogynist, anti-immigrant viruses that percolate inside of our country”
Although we were unable to reach Nellie’s for a comment, they released a statement on Saturday explaining why the flag was raised. “This weekend, all of us at Nellie’s learned an extremely important lesson. At the end of this week, a group of LGBT police officers were meeting at Nellie’s to gather in a welcoming space,” said Nellie’s in their official response to the community’s outcry. “This happened to fall just as we were taking down our Irish flag for St. Patrick’s Day, and we opted to welcome them with what we thought was just a flag representing the police.”
There are those who are disappointed by the bar’s choice to remove the flag, apologize, and offer a donation to No Justice No Pride. However the hurt caused by the symbol and movement has had a visceral effect on those who considered Nellie’s a safe space.
“Blue lives kill black lives,” says Thurston, who does not believe this movement’s colors can or should be flown with a Black Lives Matter flag. “The list black folk who have been killed by police while police get off [without facing] any time or any criminal accountability for their actions is actually astounding.”
Thurston says, “For me, seeing Nellie’s, an establishment that I have frequented, feel that it is appropriate to align itself with a symbol that is emblematic of the white nationalist backlash against the movement of black liberation was quite shocking.”