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Chairman calls firefighters terrorists, orders American flags off trucks

In a horrid display of anti-patriotism, the Town of Coventry’s Central Fire District chairman, last week called for a stop to the ages-long practice of American flag-flying on fire trucks. The fallout from Fred Gralinski’s actions and comparison of the district’s union firefighters to Isis terrorists, caused a firestorm of controversy continuing through Memorial Day weekend and still playing out on social media on Friday night.

“They look like a bunch of yahoos like you see in the paper, like Isis going into Syria to take over a city. I don’t think they need that big flag on the back of the truck because that’s not America to me. Those are a bunch of terrorists.” – Fire District Chairman Fred Galinski said at a town meeting. “I’m going to ask you to remove the flag from that truck.”

It’s American to us. The members are very upset. I have a couple of members who are Armed service members. – Dave Gorman, Union President IAFF Local 3372

The Local members weren’t the only ones upset. On Friday evening, the union posted on social media, taking to Twitter and Facebook in thanking departments from across the nation for their show of support.

“We have received calls of support from FDNY, CA, VA, FL, TN, TX, IN, MD, NJ, IL, MA, SD, NC, SC, NJ, PA, AND Canada showing support for CCFD! 🇺🇸. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.”

The support had come long before Galinski’s remarks that were brought to the fore on Memorial Day weekend, when contract negotiations between union and district came to a halt. Union President, Dave Gorman, told NBC 10 that he had been told to remove the flags. The District and firefighters union having been in a dogfight for years over the district’s mismanagement remained at odds. Wounds not healed, contract negotiations and continued upheaval made the orders to remove the flag from the firetruck a petty powerplay attempt aimed at riling up the membership.

The prior mismanagement led to a receivership filing in 2011 and subsequent recommendation for disbanding the fire district altogether. Local and state representatives of the district failed to support their firefighters and their families, who at one point during a breakdown in negotiations and lack of district funding, manned their shifts and apparatus without pay. The IAFF and union stood strong, ultimately prevailing.

State Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-26), who fought the firefighters throughout the district’s attempts to oust them, engaged in a Twitter fight with local and state firefighter union members, accusing them of using flag-flying – on Memorial Day weekend – as a nefarious ploy in contract negotiations. Even news networks were dumbfounded as to that reasoning, struggling to define Gralinski’s brand of Americanism that didn’t include the American flag.

Rep. Morgan attempted to turn the tables on the firefighters. “Is this what the uproar about the American flag on Central Coventry Fire District apparatus was really about…negotiations over claims the Union was pursuing?,” Morgan Tweeted after announcement of a settlement agreement with the union. “On Memorial Day? Luckily, despite the malicious attacks on their motives, the CCFD Board was able to stay focused and negotiate a settlement that saved the taxpayers $1.2 million.”

Morgan, during the social media blast turned battle, blocked several union firefighters from her Twitter feed, who summarily posted photos of their blocked status. Why the blocking? The members asked the Representative if Gralinski should resign as Fire District Chair given the fact that he considered his membership to be terrorists. And they asked Morgan if a fire district, (one that had just gone through court receivership and settlement negotiations) should be hiring a public relations spokesperson at $135 per hour.

A Change.org petition was filed by Ted J. Dion, a taxpayer and veteran asking for Gralinski’s resignation and appointment of a new fire district board president. As of Friday evening, the outpouring of support for the firefighters and outrage at Gralinski’s terrorist comments hadn’t waned, with social media blowing up well into the night.

This post originally appeared on Examiner.com on June 4, 2016.

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