CLARK, NJ - The Stars and Stripes will fly again over New Jersey’s roadways. After public outcry over the removal of the flags, Governor Phil Murphy said on Tuesday that the American flags will remain displayed.
Before Murphy’s edict this week, flags and other local banners had been removed from Clark’s Garden State Parkway overpasses under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Local residents lashed out on social media hypothesizing about why American flags were being removed. Many locals including Mayor Bonaccorso blamed Governor Murphy. According to the mayor there was no notification to the Township or Police Department.
Others on social media criticized the mayor for making the conversation divisive and political and spinning the situation against Murphy when the NJTA was doing their job to remove obstructions.
Bonaccorso criticized the initial action taken by the NJTA and then went after Murphy. Calling him “Governor Glass-Jaw,” Bonaccorso said Murphy was trying to spin his decision to let the flags remain to make it sound like he did something great. Instead, Bonaccorso called it a fake, and said Murphy is trying to make it look like he did something. Bonaccorso said it was the governor and his “liberalism manners” trying to pull one over on people.
If he were in the same position as the governor, Bonaccorso said he “would have blacked-out on the director of the Turnpike Authority …and ordered those (flags) up the next morning.”
During his daily press briefing, Murphy said “I didn’t like what I heard. We are the greatest nation on the earth, even though we’re far from perfect, and our flag represents that nation.”
The Governor said the practice of removing the flags has been suspended until “we find a good way forward.” He noted that “some safety or distraction element from other type of signage, not the American flag” may need to be addressed.
Bonaccorso agreed that beyond American flags on these structures, things can get complicated. “Lots of banners started to go up on the overpasses, and I do agree (with governor) it is not equal if you allow one, with civil rights and freedom of speech, you got to allow everyone,” said Bonaccorso. “There were some great banners up supporting the thin blue line...first responders and I’m glad they were up there as long as they have, but if I was in a position (governor) to make that call…I would have said, take everything down and leave the American flag, no one is going to argue about it.”
Murphy’s sentiment about the flag was in sync. “I think we should be proud of our flag at every step,” Murphy noted. “I stand with the flag.”
Bonaccorso said he had ordered the Department of Public Works to put two flags back on the GSP overpass.
Related to the same situation, one New Jersey lawmaker, Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) announced that he will be introducing legislation to allow law enforcement and veterans organizations to display and maintain American flags on highway overpasses 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,” said Benson. “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.”