Following backlash from the public, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced he was overruling the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s decision to remove American flags from New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway overpasses.
“They’ve suspended that for the time being,” the Democratic governor said at a Tuesday media conference, NJ Advance Media reported.
The outlet previously reported that the agency “want[ed] the flags gone,” despite the fact that many of the patriotic displays have been hanging from overpasses since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
On Sept. 1, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority cited a “long-standing policy” that prohibits the display of flags, signs and 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 agency wrote in a Facebook comment.
“The Turnpike and Parkway run through more than 100 municipalities and include more than 1,100 bridges and other structures.
“The NJTA cannot adequately monitor flags mounted by private citizens to make sure they are safely and securely hung, properly displayed, and respectfully maintained.”
The announcement received backlash from veterans groups and at least one police union.
“We cannot understand why the N.J.T.P.A. has suddenly decided to abandon a tradition of patriotism and respect for our veterans,” the Robbinsville PBA wrote in a Facebook post, adding that the flags police officers recently placed on overpasses to replace missing or tattered ones were firmly secured.
“They did not impede traffic and did not obstruct visibility for passing motorists. The placement of the flags was done in the same manner that has been done for nearly twenty years.”
A group of veterans rallied on one of the overpasses Sunday to protest the Turnpike Authority’s decision.
“The rally on the bridge was a small reminder of how our country came together like we did on 9/11,” American Legion state Executive Committeeman for Middlesex County Daniel Dunn told NJ Advance Media.
Murphy had been asked about the ban during a Monday WPG radio call-in show and indicated to host Harry Hurley he would reverse the ban.
“I didn’t like what I heard. After I got off the call, we spoke with the team,” Murphy said during the Tuesday conference.
“At least for the time being, the Turnpike Authority has suspended that.”
Dunn celebrated the overturning of the policy.
“We are in some dark times across our country and we need to be able to express a unified spirit of Americanism,” Dunn told NJ Advance Media.
Veterans of Foreign Wars State Commander Brian Wiener expressed gratitude to residents who protested the original decision and reached out to public officials about it.
“Their actions will ensure our nation’s flag will be flying high on 9-11 and year round,” added Kenneth Hagemann, state adjutant for Veterans of Foreign Wars.
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