Portsmouth Sheriff furious with judges after being told to remove American flag display from courthouse

Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-12 00:45:44-04

UPDATE: The flag display was removed from the lobby, but it has now found a new home.

Portsmouth, Va. - Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson says he is furious after a group of judges told him to take down an American flag display.

Sheriff Watson said his agency got the American flag display as a gift from members of the Portsmouth Fire Department a few weeks ago.

It's made of old fire hoses which a sign beneath it that reads, "A Tribute to Public Safety."

American Flag DisplayWatson said he requested to have it mounted on the wall in the lobby of the courthouse but was shocked by what he was told.

Watson said he was told, "Not only do we not want it on the wall, we don't want it in the courthouse."

Watson said, "I just can't believe that they don't want to display the American flag in a courthouse, I mean that's the most asinine thing I've ever heard in my life."

NewsChannel 3 spoke with a judge who didn't want to be identified about the issue. The judge told us it was decided that the lobby of the courthouse is not the appropriate place for the display.

He said they don't want any display or memorial of it's kind positioned in the lobby when people walk into the courthouse.

The judge said if you allow one type of display, then you will have to allow all types.

The judge said having the display in the lobby sets the wrong precedent. The decision is upsetting Watson and others.

Watson said, "They expect my deputies to put their life on the line for a judge. If somebody was going to come into a courtroom with a gun, the deputy is supposed to stand in front of the judge and take a bullet, but yet they won't let us have our flag, saluting public safety? To me, that's a slap in the face."

The judge told News Channel 3 the Sheriff can hang whatever he wants in his office, which is located on the first floor of the building next to the lobby.

Watson says if it comes to it, he will mount the flag in the window of his office and would rather be sent to jail than take it down.

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