Four suburban Chicago firefighters were suspended from duty earlier this week over their refusal to remove patriotic stickers from their lockers and helmets. They include American flags, 9/11 memorials and designations of past military service.
Maywood Fire Chief Craig Bronaugh set off the dispute when he ordered an American flag be removed from the inside of Station no. 2–one that replaced an old, tattered one, according to local station WGN.
He gave no reason for the order, so the firefighters put American flag stickers on their lockers instead. This ramped up tensions and prompted another memo from the chief ordering that all stickers and decals be removed from lockers and helmets.
His memo cited a “culture of racism” as the reason for his order, and included a photo of a monkey smoking a cigarette that was taped to a previous firefighter’s locker as proof.
“As a fire chief here, I cannot afford nor tolerate,” he said.
But the four suspended firefighters–one Afircan-American, one Cuban and two white–all say the chief is way off base, and claim the monkey photo had nothing to do with racism. WGN reported:
The picture is about ten years old and isn’t even up anymore. That it was all a joke between two firefighters. And that the firefighter in question is now a lieutenant and doesn’t have a locker like that.
When David Flowers Jr., the union president, wouldn’t take down the Marine decal on his locker, the same locker that was his father’s, a Maywood firefighter and Vietnam vet, he was relieved of duty and sent home.
“If someone has a problem with a Marine Corps decal, you take this to heart. Flag is attached to our uniform,” Flowers Jr said.
Watch the WGN report below.