Wednesday, March 02, 2016
GREENFIELD — People were on Facebook Tuesday morning, voicing support for the Greenfield police sergeant who was recently criticized for hanging a Confederate flag in his garage.
“Good for Dan; it’s his house,” said one man.
Another man said he was going to hang one next.
Others seemed to bemoan the constraints of political correctness.
“Seriously? Get over it already. If it’s not a flag, it’s how you say ‘happy holidays.’ If it’s not that, it’s a Starbucks cup,” said one woman.
People asked what has happened to freedom of speech and expression, and many seemed angry that a person would be questioned about what he does, or hangs, in his own home or garage.
Greenfield Police Sgt. Daniel McCarthy, who has been a full-time officer on the local department since 1992 and is his department’s liaison on the town’s Human Rights Commission, was criticized this week after a father, who happens to be McCarthy’s neighbor, posted dismay about the flag, saying his 10-year-old black son expressed fear after seeing it hanging in his garage.
Rod Hart’s post was followed by more than 70 posts voicing support for him, his husband Lindel Hart and their son Hugh. All but one of those posts chastised McCarthy for his insensitivity because of the flag’s racist connotations.
McCarthy, who posted a brief reply to initial comments on Hart’s Facebook page, has not returned emails or calls to his home and police department extension Monday or Tuesday. He was not home when a reporter dropped by his Woodard Road home Tuesday. His Facebook comment was “Hatred is not a piece of fabric; it resides in people’s hearts. As a Catholic man, I have no hatred in my heart and try to see the face of God in everyone.”
Those who support McCarthy posted on The Recorder’s Facebook page Tuesday in response to a front page story Tuesday. Some said everyone, including the newspaper, is making too big a deal of the whole thing.
“Excuse me. I don’t care if he’s a cop or not. That is his right to hang (the flag) inside his house,” was another post.
“If he is protecting his town and doing his duty, why do we care?”
Many said they didn’t understand why hanging a Confederate flag on the interior wall of one’s garage would ever be an issue for anyone, except the people who live there.
“I stand behind Sgt. Dan McCarthy 100 percent. This is so ridiculous!!!”
Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh said he planned to meet with the Harts on Tuesday or today.
“I’ve been talking and texting with them,” said Haigh. “I haven’t sat with them yet, so when I do, I’ll get their views and concerns and see how I can help.”
Haigh said he believes McCarthy has taken the flag down.
“I hate that their son has fear of the Greenfield police,” said Haigh.
The chief said he does not believe McCarthy was being malicious in his actions. He said it was McCarthy who asked to be appointed by the previous chief as liaison to the Human Rights Commission.
“We have to continue talking with all involved,” said Haigh. “What’s most important, is that we all have private lives, but we are public figures. There has to be sensitivity on our part. I know Dan cares about his community and the people who live in it.”
Haigh said a police officer is a police officer, though, whether in uniform or not. He said that means they have to be extra sensitive to issues like this one. He said the police department will continue to build relationships with the community and everyone in it.
“We’ve worked really hard to get here, and the public deserves a great police department,” said Haigh.
Lindel Hart said the reason he and his husband were so upset about the flag is because it has become increasingly difficult to raise a black child who doesn’t fear the police, citing many incidents between police and black teens and men across the country in recent years.
“We’ve tried to teach him that he’s safe here in Greenfield — a town that values all of its residents,” said Hart. “This undermines the goodwill we are trying to put forth.”
Hart said the flag, when McCarthy’s garage door has been open, was in his son’s face.
“This is a symbol of racism,” he said. “We have to come to a place of understanding.”
The Harts said they have been clear since they first noticed the flag next door that it is McCarthy’s right — everyone’s right — to hang the flag of their choice.
“It’s perfectly legal, and I understand freedom of speech, but with that right comes responsibility,” said Hart. “If it was just any neighbor, we’d still be upset, but not like this. He is a municipal employee. He’s a police officer. That holds more weight.”
Mayor’s visit positive
Hart said something positive has already come out of the incident.
On Tuesday night, Mayor William Martin knocked on the Harts’ door.
“He did a great job of focusing on Hugh,” said Hart. “He made sure Hugh understood that he was there to make sure he was OK. He wanted Hugh and us to know that the town is with us on this, in making sure Hugh feels safe.”
Martin said he felt he needed to visit the men and their son right away and express his concern.
“I want them to know this is not a fearsome community,” said Martin. “Whether looking through the eyes of a 10-year-old or 70-year-old, we are influenced by many things, not just one like this incident. But, taken all together, they help us develop our perceptions of the outside world. I don’t want that little boy to fear anything here.”
The Harts said five minutes with the mayor made their son feel better. They said their Facebook rant started as simply a way to vent their frustration. Instead, they said the mayor stepped up to the plate.
“I honestly believe that this simple gesture really set Hugh’s mind at ease,” said Rod Hart. “Very cool.”