[Audio] Poll: Firefighter cannot wear Black Lives Matter pin on uniform; Humboldt’s last week of news

In the latest episode of Humboldt Last Week (11:48): A local firefighter filed a grievance after his boss asked him to stop wearing a Black Lives Matter pin on his uniform. Humboldt Bay Fire’s uniform policy says you can wear lapel pins as long as they’re “fire service related and in good taste”. At a hearing the Humboldt Bay Fire Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors ultimately forbid him from wearing the pin saying it was politically divisive and not related to firefighting.

Matt McFarland was the firefighter fighting this decision. He said he was aiming for inclusiveness, free speech, and he wanted people of color to feel comfortable calling the fire department in Eureka. McFarland and his supporters said Black Lives Matter is a social movement, an extension of civil rights, and it should not be considered controversial.

Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Bill Gillespie’s official response to McFarland’s grievance partially said “a (public employee’s) uniform is not a venue for freedom of speech.”

Eureka City Councilmember Austin Allison is one of the Directors who made the decision to disallow the uniform pin who noted he’s personally a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement but their decision was strictly a matter of policy. In a post he echoed his belief that Black Lives Matter could be politically divisive.

“…This decision has nothing to do with the movement itself, but I am glad this issue was raised about racial injustice in our community,” he wrote. “We as directors of Humboldt Bay Fire have work to do in regards to reaffirm that Humboldt Bay Fire’s mission is to serve the public to our utmost ability despite any color, creed, or religion…”

It was reported by the Lost Coast Outpost that outgoing Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills was the one who pointed out the pin to the fire chief. McFarlands wife sent a photo to the blog of Mills wearing a Police Lives Matter bracelet. Mills said the difference was that the bracelet is not a part of his uniform and when asked he said he’d be okay with his officers wearing Black Lives Matter bracelets. At the hearing Mills stood firm saying allowing a Black Lives Matter pin on a public employee’s uniform would open things up for others to wear polarizing pins supporting say the NRA or the pro-life movement.

Some in the community have said a public servant showing support for a part of our community is not offensive and allowing the pin would be a positive step for public relations — that there’s nothing political about standing up against racism.

Others have said that while some Black Lives Matter affiliates are simply supporting civil rights, others support violent, damaging, or separatist views. They believe politics should be left off the uniforms of public servants.

What do you think? Should policy allow a public servant to wear a Black Lives Matter pin on their uniform?

Vote in the poll below. It will be active until June 16.

The story starts at 11:48.

Should policy allow a public servant to wear a Black Lives Matter pin on their uniform?


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  • Thinking allowed

    It is not a matter for voting anyway. The ban on using a public service uniform as an advocacy platform means very little is open to display. Each uniform is a representative of the offical position of the agency, not the personal position of the wearer.

    It also is irrelevant that Mills might have had a personal motivation for reporting it. His being wrong in wearing his wristband or having a personal motive in objecting to it does not make McFarland right. It only points out why wearing it is problematic for some of the general public too.

  • One thing is for sure, this article is gonna deffinetly set the debate on race politics in fire.

  • Black lives matter is a political movement and shouldn’t be infused with a public tax payer funded establishment. As many may not agree with said movement. And those who’s pay is deducted each and every month do have a say. All lives matter!

    • Well then, that said, we should never again use tax payer dollars to fund a presidential meet and greet with the pope. Separation between church and state! Separation between identity politics and state!!

  • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

    They ought to drug test this sicko firefighter and fire him, you have to be on something to be acting like that.

    The cops should pull him over every day and write him tickets until something can be found to jail him.

    Liking a terrorist group means there is a weed grow around somewhere.

    A few years in prison would be a good thing for this guy.

    • The only terrorist is you.

    • Sometimes, I’m absolutely sure you are practicing up to work for The Onion.

      • Triniboldticino

        It took me awhile, but I’d have to agree. It is just so vile sometimes.
        As to the pin, I’d say no. Doesn’t belong on a uniform any more than any other politically motivated announcement. Doesn’t belong on a government vehicle bumper sticker any more than Trump, Bernie or anyone else. Not because of the message. It is simply the better part of common sense not to introduce arguments into Civil Service.

    • Wow chump, I thought my comments were bad. Lol. McFarland is a upstanding firefighter as are most all of them. His choice to file and push this anyfurther is iggnorance. He knows his spot as not only a public servant but more importantly…. a firefighter. Firefighters are to be neutral in ALL matters of religion, creed , financial means, sex, if a person is an drug addict or a judge and yes……race. This is taught first at academy before anything else. He should know this being the professional he is.

  • If I said “white lives matter” it would be considered racists by blacks and other ethnic groups. Tired of this racists BS

    • If you support patients with Leukemia, are you saying patients with MS don’t matter?

      • All Lives Matter! No reason to single any One over Another. This slogan is nothing more than race-baiting.

        Oops. Looks like someone has already stated this. You go Shak!

  • An “All Lives Matter” pin includes all lives, even aminals.
    An “*Exclusive* Lives Matter” excludes all those not in the elite arena. That’s politics.

    I want my public service person to represent all lives.
    If they don’t want to do this, then I demand my tax money back so I can hire my own service persons who roll without any bias or defensive stance whatsoever.

  • The pin was a violation of a standing policy, the firefighter should be fired, not for wearing it, but for refusing to remove it.

  • As a Firefighter here in Humboldt County I agree and support the Chief’s view on this. When I put on my gear I am representing my Department and everything I do and or wear is a representation of my fellow Firefighters as well. My personal views political or otherwise has no place in this line of work. Not everyone in the Department has the same views as me, and vice versa. In our line of work we leave this at the door. We don’t get to pick and choose who we help so we are trained to save all lives regardless of their race, political views, etc. This Firefighter should have accepted this when he signed on. After his first responder class if he still felt this way then obviously this is not the type of work he should pursue. There is no room in the Fire House for distractions, and personal and or political views are a distraction. Keep it professional and focus on the job.

    • Amen brother, well said.

    • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.


      Definitely spot on.

      The whole fire house should go and toilet paper his house, maybe even use the burning bag of dog poo on the porch before ringing the doorbell.

    • Mac you are a professional. i think your right on the money with this one. thanks for your service.

    • Fine so if the firefighter shouldn’t wear the pin THEN CHIEF MILLS SHOULDN’T BE WEARING A FRIGGEN BRACELET WITH “BLUE LIVES MATTER”…why don’t more comments here address that blaring hypocrisy and double standard?

  • Who does that pin speak to?? Any blacks reading this post?? 1% of Humboldt County is black . 81% is white and of those nearly 20% live in poverty and how many are involved in illegal drug use and other various crimes and debauchery?? How about the meth dealers at the Budget matter? The girls walking on Second Street matter? I agree that a public official should not use their position as political platform, unless your Kim Davis. Gay lives matter?? Has a liberal Humboldt ring to it. Sounds like this fella is a boat rocker..everyone here can relate..

  • A public employee’s uniform is no different than a fire truck or police car. If you work for a public, tax payer funded agency, you cannot put any political, personal opinion advertisement on it. You represent a group wearing the uniform, and cannot be allowed to show personal preference. Allow this, and government vehicles will be allowed to put political bumper stickers on their vehicles.

    • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

      The idea of getting bumper magnets to place on government vehicles comes to mind.

      Slogans such as, ‘ Tax The Shit Out Of Them & Jail Complainers ‘


      ‘ Your Voice Doesn’t Matter ‘


      ‘ We’re Slacking On Your Dime ‘

      ‘ Voter Ballots Make Great Toilet Paper ‘.

  • Sleepy Alligator

    As long as he doesn’t show up for work with his uniform pants sagging down to his knees and his drawers exposed for the rest of the world to see I say let him wear the button. I mean the guy is a professional fireman who saves lives. That is all I need to know about him to know that all lives matter to him. It’s not like he shows up at a fire and only saves black people. If he were to be suspended or fired because of this button nonsense that could possibly mean that someone’s life could be lost and that is just wrong. Isn’t this [edit], Chief Mills, who is causing this issue the same one who attempted to convince eureka to rally up and protest the punk rock band that came to play here a while back? The one who no one listened to because that was just stupid? He should learn to mind his own business and stop stirring up trouble for this fireman.

  • fakeemail@gmail.com

    bullshit/horseshit,whatever it may be… a uniform is a uniform and tnd the contract of employment requires that one wear a uniform.period.

  • I like the sentiment expressed by the fire fighter.

    I also think that limiting free speech is a contradiction in terms. This is especially troubling to me when the excuse is that “I am employing the person whose speech I am restricting.” Can I restrict someone’s religion while I am employing them? Can I prohibit the “sign of the cross” or a sub-vocal prayer? I think I have to prove that the particular speech interferes with job performance in order to restrict it. I think that really requires a higher standard than “some people would be offended because they feel left out.”
    I know the “employment exception” to all freedoms is considered almost a given in the religion of Americanism. I think we’ve all succumbed to what Abraham Lincoln warned about “wage slavery.” I also think the framers of the constitution were a lot like us in not really meaning what they said about “freedom”. The “Alien and Sedition Acts” demonstrated this.
    However the California constitution says something interesting: “Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. At law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.”
    I think this places the “restraint” right where it should be; the consequences of the speech are the responsibility of the speaker. No, you may not restrain the speech by law but you may hold the speaker liable for the consequences. I think this applies even to the straw man idolized in the “fire in a crowded theater” argument.

    Don’t assume that I like the results of this real belief in freedom. I think it allows what I would consider “hate speech” until it has provable consequences. And I think that really the firefighter in question should be held accountable if someone he is serving is harmed in direct response to his “free speech.”

    I am very unimpressed by reasons that claim to justify attacks on the freedoms that we claim to be defending. Least convincing of all are all the variations on “This could cause trouble.”

    • Thinking allowed

      On duty political speech must meet three tests to be protected by California. Two of those three tests are whether his speech is part of his official duties and if his employer’s need for efficiency in operation outweighs his rights to free speech.

      In this case, wearing a uniform is part of his duty and therefore not protected by a citizen’s right of free speech. And even if it was, the last test of protection is clearly not met because even in reporting the issue, it was mentioned the hostility wearing the pin caused among his fellow employees to the distruption of the efficiency of the department. And the primary desire of the public is that emergency services upon which their very lives may depend is that they work efficiently together to accomplish their duties.

      This case can’t make it past the test of protected free speech that citizen’s have but that is limited for public employees.

        ARTICLE I DECLARATION OF RIGHTS [SECTION 1 – SEC. 32] ( Article 1 adopted 1879. )SEC. 2. (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.”

        I don’t defer to court precedent when thinking. I accept it as a “rule”, but rules are not truths. I understand that the California constitution is also a “rule” but I think here it is attempting to be a statement of principle; I take it that way.

        The plain language meaning of “Every person” is clear. Though the Court has ruled otherwise, for political reasons — some of which may be quite valid — “every person” should include state employees. Corporations are persons but state employees are not? The courts have evidently ruled both of these things to be true. Perhaps corporations and other businesses should be restricted from political speech while holding state contracts. I won’t follow out all of the absurd thoughts that can be spun from these ‘principles.”

        • He had the right to refuse the job when he read the rules of uniform and conduct when he “signed” on. He was not forced to work there. His freedom of speech was not threatened. He agreed to abide by their uniform rules. Freedom of speech also includes the words yes and no, yay and nay.

        • Thinking allowed

          It’s nice to be an independent thinker but if there are no limits to independent thinking, there is no law. In other words, touting the Constitution as law to insist on a point while refusing court precedent on the same exact point is just cherry picking which law is really law and which law is really not really law as it suits the individual.

          Oh well, no rule that you can’t spin it whatever you want on a forum. But it’s a hard slog to do that successfully in court.

  • Any body who supports violent racist hate mongering BLM in my opinion is either racist and divisive themselves . Or just plain ignorant !!. The chief did the right thing .

  • Hell most intelligent and honest black folks don’t even support this ignorant so called movement .

  • Just another arrogant person on the public payroll trying to push their agenda on everyone else! The fact he wants to do it in his duty uniform AND when he being paid is a pure disgrace. Then he has the nerve to file a complaint. When the need for layoffs comes this person is a prime candidate.

    Whats next someone wants to wear a ISIS pin???

  • When is the poll regarding Chief Mills wearing the bracelet going to be posted? I voted yes to the firefighter BUT ONLY BECAUSE IF MILLS CAN THEN damn straight the firefighter should be able to (though I think nether should while at work).

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