After nearly 20 years, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has changed course and is taking down the U.S. flags installed on the overpasses in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and local residents are outraged.
The government agency explained its decision in a statement on its Facebook page.
“The New Jersey Turnpike Authority appreciates and applauds patriotism. We try to express patriotism ourselves every day by maintaining dozens of American flags at properties in our right of way — office buildings, toll plazas, service areas, maintenance facilities, State Police buildings, warehouses,” the statement read.
“Those flags are treated with the utmost respect by Turnpike Authority personnel. They are flown on suitable staffs. They are illuminated at night. They are lowered to half-staff when the state is in mourning. They are removed, properly destroyed, and promptly replaced when they become faded or worn and are no longer suitable symbols of our national ideals,” it continued.
“The long-standing policy of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has been to prohibit the display of any flags, signs, or banners by private parties on Turnpike Authority property. 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, Turnpike Authority regulations do not allow it, and for good reason,” the statement said.
The statement went on to explain that the agency would not continue maintaining the flags, so they would have to be taken down.
“While we hope that everyone who wants to display the American flag finds a suitable location to do so, we believe that limiting the flags displayed on Turnpike Authority property to ones hung and maintained by Turnpike Authority staff is the best way to assure that all flags in the Turnpike and Parkway right of way are treated with the respect they deserve,” the statement concluded.
In some cases, officials replaced the U.S. flags with a sign that read, “Placement of signage or items of any nature on this structure is strictly prohibited.”
Residents are defiant
One town has decided that it will defy the decision and put the flags back up. In a Facebook group called “Replacing American Flags,” residents of Robbinsville Township say they have the support of the mayor to replace the flags.
“With the full support of Mayor Dave Fried, we plan to re-hang the American flags on the overpasses throughout Robbinsville Township,” read the page.
The residents say they plan to replace the flags on Friday, Sept. 11, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.