Letter: Wearing the uniform at a public meeting is a form of free speech

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Rob Port’s recent opinion column criticized police and firefighters for attending a city commission meeting while (gasp) wearing their uniforms thus intimidating the commission. He then called for this practice to be stopped.

Sadly, there seems to be a growing trend among those on the right and their self-appointed mouthpieces to demand all public employees be submissive to their governmental employers as if they should just be happy that they have a job. This is absurd. No one should have to sit quietly in the face of their government, especially not its employees.

Every employee has a right to stand with others for things they believe are important. Better than anyone, Fargo police and firefighters understand the cost of the high turnover that the low wages cause. They understand the morale problems and the effect on services these policies produce. Above all, they have a right and even a duty to bring these issues in front of our elected officials whether in or out of uniform. Understand that their problems are our problems and directly affect the invaluable services they provide.

This spring, the legislature soundly defeated a collective bargaining bill that would have given the firefighters and police a voice at these important discussions with many legislators looking with horror on the idea that public safety workers should have a place at the table where their needs could be discussed properly. Truly, if they had a real voice, they wouldn’t have to pack meetings to be taken seriously.

Our firefighters and police are amazing people. They are tasked with protecting all of us, and their uniform is just a tool of their trade. Calling it intimidation when several of them are sitting quietly in uniform is embarrassing. How fragile are our elected officials anyway? These officers were simply taking part in the better government that we all need.


For years I have heard those on the right talk about how they “Back the Blue!” But this phrase is too often used in place of actually supporting our emergency responders in any meaningful manner. North Dakotans have to stop just saying they “Back the Blue” and start truly supporting the both the firefighter and police.

Hedegaard is president of the North Dakota AFL-CIO.

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