Rhode Island fire truck, flag controversy heats up

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A Central Coventry Fire District truck displaying the U.S. flag.A Central Coventry Fire District truck displaying the U.S. flag.

Firefighters in Rhode Island that were likened to terrorists by a fire district official for displaying U.S. flags on their trucks say they are still being asked to remove the banners.

The trouble began in Coventry, R.I. last year when Central Coventry Fire District Chairman Fred Gralinski said that displaying American flags on the trucks was akin to terrorism, according to turnto10.com.

“They look like a bunch of yahoos,” Gralinski said about the firefighters at a fire district board meeting last year. “Like in the paper, like ISIS is Syria going to take over a city. I don’t think they need that big flag on the back of the truck. That’s not America to me. Those are a bunch of terrorists. So, I’m going to ask you to take the flag off the truck.”

Following a public outcry, Gralinski later apologized for his remarks and the flags continued flying on the trucks.

However, David Gorman, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 3372, said this week that he’s now being told in private that the flags and union decals on the trucks have to go.

“The members are very upset,” Gorman explained to turnto10.com. “I have a couple members, armed service retired, retired from the guard.”

Gralinski denied that he or others on the Coventry Central Fire District Board of Directors are still calling for the removal of the flags and decals.

Besides criticizing the display of the American flag, Granlinski also said that it was wrong for firefighters to place union stickers on their trucks.

“It’s a taxpayer-owned truck,” Gralinksi told patch.com. “You don’t have FOP stickers on police cars. You don’t have union stickers on the front door of a school.”

Coventry firefighters have taken to social media to voice their concerns. Firefighters across the country continue to respond and criticize Gralinksi’s comments. The Central Coventry Fire District website could not be accessed Saturday.