Robbinsville, NJ – The New Jersey Turnpike Association (NJTPA) allegedly removed over a dozen American flags that a local police association had hung on overpasses in remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The flags were replacements for other American flags that had become tattered or were missing, Robbinsville Township Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Michael Slininger said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“Last month, Robbinsville P.B.A. Local 344 purchased over a dozen American flags to replace those that were either missing or tattered on the overpasses covering the New Jersey Turnpike and I-195,” Slininger explained in the post.
“The reason we decided to replace the flags was to continue the tradition of honoring our veterans and those lost in service for our country,” the post said.
He said that the PBA made sure the flags were “firmly secured,” and that they intended to continue maintaining them “to ensure proper respect was given.”
“They did not impede traffic and did not obstruct visibility for passing motorists,” Slininger added. “The placement of the flags was done in the same manner that has been done for nearly twenty years.”
The PBA president noted that since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, American flags have been flown from overpasses throughout the state and the country.
“Now, as we approach the anniversary of that horrific day, we are extremely disappointed to announce that the NJ Turnpike Authority saw fit to remove all flags on overpasses covering the N.J.T.P. last week,” Slininger wrote.
The NJTPA replaced the American flags with signs citing code that is “meant to apply to advertisement material or improper signage,” he said.
“We cannot understand why the N.J.T.P.A. has suddenly decided to abandon a tradition of patriotism and respect for our veterans,” Slininger wrote. “It is not known what happened to the brand new flags that we put up, but we truly hope they were respectfully disposed of, if not displayed elsewhere.”
The PBA president said he reached out to the NJTPA’s director of relations asking for the reason behind the removal of the flags.
“While we appreciate the desire of some New Jersey residents to express their patriotism in these turbulent times by displaying flags on Turnpike and Parkway overpasses, Authority regulations do not allow it, and for good reason,” NJTPA spokesperson Tom Feeney told The Star-Ledger.
“The NJTA cannot adequately monitor flags mounted by private citizens to make sure they are safely and securely hung, properly displayed, and respectfully maintained,” Feeney said.
The PBA said Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried fully supports the police group’s desire to fly the flags on overpasses and throughout the township.
The group has organized a community event to replace them yet again on Friday.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also backed the PBA’s effort, and announced on Wednesday morning that the NJTPA has suspended removing the flags “at least for the time being,” The Star-Ledger reported.
New Jersey Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Middlesex) said that he and several other lawmakers are working on a bill that would make displaying American flags exempt from the NJTPA statute, provided veterans and law enforcement organizations maintain the flags in coordination with the Turnpike Authority.
“In times of prosperity and crisis, we must always hold our flag high and fight to protect all it represents,” Benson told The Star-Ledger. “The officers and veterans who maintain flags on state highways are looking to remind us of this great symbol of democracy. Their work should be celebrated.”