A social media post by the Delaware General Assembly’s Democratic chief of staff that equated flying a Blue Lives Matter flag with white supremacy has drawn ire from Republicans, dismay from police and discussions with his party leadership.
Jesse Chadderdon, who also is a former executive director of the Delaware Democratic Party, on Tuesday tweeted, “If you don’t think folks deploy the #BlueLivesMatter flag as symbol of white supremacy, ask yourself why one might choose to deploy it on the one-year anniversary of #GeorgeFloyd’s murder. #BlackLivesMatter.” It was later taken down.
Floyd was the Black man who died last May after Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. Floyd’s well-documented death set off nationwide demonstrations and riots and led to a national conversation about social and racial justice that continues to reverberate across the country.
Delaware’s Young Republicans quickly issued their own social media post: “Jesse Chadderdon, Chief of Staff for Democrats in the State Senate, equates support of #BlueLivesMatter to white supremacy. This comes less than one month after the murder of Delaware law enforcement officer Keith Heacook.”
The post asked readers to contact leaders of the Delaware State Senate and ask for Chadderdon to be fired.
On Wednesday, Senate Democratic Caucus leader President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark, Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, and Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington, issued a statement saying that Chadderdon chose his words poorly and created confusion about how Democrats feel.
“Neither the members of our Caucus, nor Mr. Chadderdon, believes that supporting law enforcement equates to white supremacy,” the statement said.
It also said, “We have addressed the post with Mr. Chadderdon internally and explained our personal disappointment in his choice of words. We apologize for the pain and confusion his post has caused.”
Efforts were not successful to reach Chadderdon directly, but later Wednesday, he issued another social media post.
It said, “A word of gratitude to TJ Mac – a longtime friend and veteran police officer – for reaching out to me to have a robust conversation about the #BlueLivesMatter flag as he sees it through his eyes. While we agreed that symbols can be weaponized by nefarious forces, we also came to agree that today is not a day for the divisiveness of my previous post.
“I am certain that we can live in a world that holds a deep reverence and respect for law enforcement while insisting upon accountability and equal justice under the law. On the anniversary of #GeorgeFloyd’s death, we’ve both come too far – and have too far to go – to mistakenly alienate friends, colleagues, and potential partners in a dialogue that can move us forward.”
Many members of the legislature, including Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, are former law enforcement officers.
Jamie Leonard, president of Delaware State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, said Tuesday night that law enforcement officers were aware of the importance of the anniversary of Floyd’s death but didn’t want to be painted with such a broad brush.
“The FOP was disheartened by the social media posts,” Leonard said. “However, that said, we respect everyone’s First Amendment right to post information and we are encouraged by the dialogue that occurred between an FOP member and Jesse that opens up the lines of communication between police and Jesse. We hope that that type of cordial discord and open mindedness continues throughout this legislative session …
“Our profession shouldn’t be painted with such a broad brush as Jesse did originally. However, it looks like in these conversations that they kind of hit home for him and that’s encouraging to see. We hope for that same type of cordial discord in the future.”
The statement from Sokola, Townsend and Lockman said Chadderdon was expressing “his frustration over how the Blue Lives Matter flag was being used by some as a response to the grief felt by many in our communities.”
The leadership’s statement pointed out that Ennis was a Delaware State Trooper for 20 years.
“Two of our members are the children of police officers. The Delaware Senate Democrats know that many good and honest police officers support the demands for accountability, transparency and equity coming from the communities they are sworn to protect,” the statement said.
“The honor of our dedicated law enforcement offices and the impact policing has on our communities are too important for there to be any doubt about our support for policies that restore trust and increase safety for both police and the communities they serve.”
Senior Lt. Travis McDermott of the New Castle County Police Department sent an email expressing support for Chadderdon.
“I have known Jesse Chadderdon for over 25 years and believe in his commitment to our community, including his support for law enforcement,” McDermott said in the email. “Yesterday, I read the statement he made on social media and immediately reached out to him to express my concern for the way the statement was presented. After a conversation about the post, Mr. Chadderdon agreed that the way the post could be perceived was not in line with his intended meaning. He immediately took the post down.
“I agree with Mr. Chadderdon that legitimate and meaningful symbols can be hijacked by individuals or groups for negative purposes. The rightful owners of these symbols should speak out against such efforts.
“After speaking with Mr. Chadderdon about the post, I truly believe that it was his intention to highlight that issue; albeit, in my opinion, it was poorly worded. Mr. Chadderdon has always supported law enforcement and recognizes the sacrifices police officers make on a daily basis. One social media post does not define his character.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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