JAMESTOWN – A Jamestown homeowner whose property was vandalized with anti-police graffiti says he will not take down his thin blue line flag and is standing up for what he believes in.
In an interview with WNYNewsNow, Rick Hammond says he first discovered the vulgar phrases early Wednesday morning spray painted on the street and sidewalk leading up to his house on Arlington Avenue.
Hammond believes he was targeted because of the thin blue line flag displayed in front of his home.
“I got the flag because I’ve seen a lot of anti-police rhetoric out there and I wanted police officers when they drove by to simply know that there are people out there who don’t hate them,” explained Hammond. “Not every cop is bad, most cops aren’t, most are good, most do their job to the best of their abilities, most of them are not racists (and) are not hunting down minorities in the street, but if you look at the news and you look at statistics you will see a completely different thing.”
When filing the report with Jamestown Police, Hammond says the officer handled the call with the utmost professionalism, which surprised him because of the circumstances.
“I was way more angry than the officer was,” said Hammond. “(It was like) she was handling a routine call, which is probably what she is trained to do, there was no emotion about it, she handled it perfectly, (which is) good for her, because I don’t know if I could have done it myself.”
Police believe that the graffiti was sprayed down sometime between early Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in retaliation to the blue line flag.
Jamestown Police Captain Robert Samuelson says those responsible could face criminal mischief or making graffiti charges, both misdemeanors in New York State.
“It’s unfortunate that someone took it upon themselves to damage someone else’s property simply because of a flag that they choose to put up outside their home,” said Captain Samuelson. “Everyone has a right to their opinion but not a right to damage someone else’s property.”
Investigators are asking anyone who may have info on this incident to contact them at 483-7537, via the anonymous Tip Line at 483-Tips (8477), or the Tips 411 App.
Jamestown’s Mayor, who has advocated for law enforcement reforms locally and marched with groups like the Jamestown Justice Coalition, says he encourages an open and productive dialogue; not vandalism.
“We don’t condone this type of activity,” said Mayor Eddie Sundquist in a statement. “We’ve been working with local community justice groups and the police to make sure their voices are heard and that we are working together to bring positive change to the city.”
Hammond called the vandals childish and cowardly, and says he wish the community would be more accepting to differences in opinions.
“There is a lot of opinions out there I don’t like, I drive through my neighborhood every day and see opinions I don’t like, they wouldn’t know it because I don’t say it to them, I don’t act rude, I don’t trash their property, because we still have a first amendment and they are entitled to their opinion,” said Hammond. “We need to go back to those days where you can have an opinion and disagree and be civil about it.”
Hammond wished the vandals would have spoke to him about the flag, rather than deface his property.
His children have since colored messages of thanks on the driveway to support those in law enforcement. His daughter has several questions about why someone would do this to their home.
“I said when you encounter friends or people that you might not agree with on things, that that’s okay you can disagree on things and still be friends, but there are unfortunately some people out there that think its okay to do things like this when they don’t agree,” Hammond said. “I think she understood it pretty well.”
Overall, Hammond says the incident only fuels his fire behind his right to express his thoughts.
“I’m not crawling into my hole, I’m not going to do it, I’m not taking the flag down, it’s not going to happen, I’m not going to get pushed around, but, there is plenty of people who are,” expressed Hammond. “I think if we want to put an end to what I think most rational people believe is ridiculous then we need to start speaking up, because right now the very small minority of people is making the most noise, and I think that is a problem.”
He says if you stand for something, you should be able to say it and own it, bottom line.