Ruling determines firefighter cannot wear "Black Lives Matter" pin on uniform
EUREKA, Calif. - A hearing at Eureka City Hall Wednesday determined Humboldt Bay Firefighter Matt McFarland is not allowed to wear a Black Lives Matter (BLM) pin on his Humboldt Bay Fire uniform.
'It's on the news every night ," McFarland said June 6 at the hearing. "There are systematic problems for people of color who are hesitant to approach anybody with a badge, anybody in a uniform."
When Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills saw McFarland wearing the pin on his uniform, he felt it was against uniform code for Humboldt Bay Fire and reported it to their deputy chief. Fire Chief Bill Gillespie agreed with Mills and asked McFarland to remove the pin because it violated HBF uniform codes that state any pins worn on a uniform cannot be political and must be in good taste.
"We work to stay neutral," Chief Gillespie said. "We don't take a side or a stance on any kind of a movement because while it may support some members of the community, it may offend or put off other members of the community."
Mcfarland decided to file an appeal of Cheif Gillespie's action before the Humboldt Bay Fire Joint Authoirty Board. A large number of community members voiced their support of McFarland at the hearing. One woman, Kim Trevillion, was angered at the backlash that Mcfarland has recieved.
"This is sickening that one man wants to take a stand in this community and everybody goes against him," Trevillion said. "I'm standing firm. I will stand with him in solidarity, and this community needs to come together."
Still, there was one person who was against McFarland wearing the pin on his uniform: McFarland's fellow firefighter, Jason Campillo.
"While I support Matt as my union brother, I always support my brothers whether it's the streets, in a fire, whatever. I do not support him on this." Campillo said. "I will not I can not stand for it. I'm a strict constitutionalist politically, but this is no place to espouse your political views."
After a delay caused by a power outage at the city hall, Cheif Mills was called to stand by HBF to say why he feels McFarland and other first responders should not wear political pins.
"If one employee is allowed to do something like this," Cheif Mills said, "then you get all kinds of employees wanting everything that they think is important...to be worn on their uniform."
The main argument in the hearing was whether or not BLM is a political or social movement. Chief Mills was under scrutiny because he has worn a "Police Lives Matter" bracelet while on duty. Mills said "Police Lives Matter" is not a political movement.
"It was on my wrist and it was approved because I have the authority to approve that for our officers," Chief Mills said.
Chief Mills argued that BLM has financial support from political agencies and that they claim to be a political movement on their website. After nearly six hours of testimony the board adjourned to discuss the issue.
The board had 30 days to make a decision, but released one later in the day. They decided to uphold Chief Gillespie's actions, stating that the decision is "based on policy and not its agreement or disagreement with the Black Lives Matter movement."