FLEMINGTON, NJ - Amid the controversy surrounding the removal of the blue line on the road down Main Street, Mayor Betsy Driver said many of the comments she received in support of removal spoke of racism in town.
Driver said Tuesday that many of the comments came from people who told her the blue line made them feel unsafe in town, and made them not want to come to Flemington.
But the town has remained very divided since the line was painted over early Saturday morning, and someone subsequently repainted the line blue in front of the police station Monday morning.
Driver said that is vandalism, and the police are investigating the incident.
“A resident took photos, they saw it happening and sent them to me,” she said.
Driver said the police are investigating the incident, and she believes they have a suspect, although an arrest had not been made as of Tuesday afternoon.
The borough painted back over the line Tuesday.
Since Saturday, Driver said, she has been receiving a number of calls, both from people who support painting over the line and those who don’t.
“We’re a small town, and we have also had an incredible amount of support from people who have reached out,” she said. “They live here, they were troubled by the blue line, and they are really glad to see it gone.”
Driver said she is receiving her share of nastiness from people angry at the actions she took, but they are mostly anonymous phone calls and people who don’t want to identify themselves.
“It is certainly not residents,” she said. “As I explained to one person, you have the privilege of knowing who you’re talking to, I don’t have the privilege of knowing who I’m taking to.”
Driver said many of the people who have called anonymously seem to have some kind of association with law enforcement, but she is not sure why those from out of the area seem to care about this issue in the borough.
“People should put this much energy into making the world a less racist and more unified place,” she said.
Currently, there is also a petition on change.org to have the blue line put back, and left permanently.
“Backing the blue does not mean that we support the corrupt officers that desecrate the badge they swore to uphold,” the petition says. “What happened to George Floyd is not how officers are trained and violates the oath they take.”
“The true meaning of the thin blue line is to show that they are the line between hostility and violence and maintaining order,” the petition continues. “It also stands for the sacrifice that all law enforcement officers make each day they put on their uniform and badge. The thin blue line is not a division between races, nor a symbol of hatred and bigotry.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had 1,029 signatures.
Driver said residents can petition, but because of state law, the line cannot be put back.
“It violates NJDOT highway marking code, so it would be illegal for us to put the line back,” she said. “If the council wants to put a blue line on a non-public road somewhere, the council can do a resolution on that.”
Driver said she would prefer to honor the police officers in other ways.
“Let’s pay them well and provide great working environments, training and good officers,” she said. “That’s how you honor your police.”