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Library is sorry after using 'racist' thin blue line imagery to promote Northwestern University police reform event

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Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Evanston Public Library in Evanston, Illinois, has issued an apology for using a "thin blue line" image to promote Northwestern University's police reform event.

Reports say that the imagery was used for signage and other materials promoting the forthcoming November event.

What are the details?

According to a Thursday report from The College Fix, the Evanston Public Library issued an apology after apparently conflating the "thin blue line" flag — which is typically flown or used to show support for law enforcement officials — with the police reform movement.

Northwestern University's Emeriti Organization, a group of retired professors from the university, plan to host a Nov. 2 event on police reform, which is titled "Police Reform: Progress and Pitfalls."

The group is set to discuss "realistic" police reform and police abuse.

The Fix reported that Prof. Emeritus Wesley Skogan of Northwestern University's Department of Political Science and Institute for Policy Research will headline the event.

A description page for the event reads, "Are police abuses endemic to the system? What are the realistic prospects for reform?"

Upon realizing its snafu, the library — which is co-sponsoring the organization's event — apologized for using "racist imagery in a display designed to promote" the upcoming event.

In a statement on the matter, a spokesperson for the library said, "We acknowledge the harm this image has caused our community, particularly for those who identify as black, indigenous, or POC. The library is committed to identifying, understanding, and rectifying our injustices past and current, as well as developing anti-racist policies and procedures that promote equity."

The statement added that all library staff will collaborate for a "more sensitive review of signage, programs, collections, policies, and procedures drafts for potentially offensive imagery before inclusion in displays."

What else?

The Daily Northwestern reported that the thin blue line flag is "sometimes used to show support for law enforcement," but claimed that the flag "also been linked to white nationalist and alt-right groups."

The Chicago Tribune reported that the offending imagery "appeared on signage as well as one of several books set out to promote the event."

After a library staffer complained about the images, library officials replaced the signage, removed the books, and issued their apology.

“We are very serious about our racial equity work and very serious about not wanting to cause harm or to hurt anyone," the library's executive director, Karen Danczak-Lyons, said. “This image can be and is harmful, so we apologized to our community."

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