ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- The Stars and Stripes will fly again over New Jersey’s roadways. After public outcry over the removal of the flags on New Jersey Turnpike overpasses, Governor Phil Murphy said that the American flags will remain displayed.
In Robbinsville Township, flags were recently removed from seven New Jersey Turnpike overpasses. Flags were not removed from the three 1-195 overpasses, however. That roadway is not under the jurisdiction of the Turnpike Authority.
Last month, Robbinsville PBA #344 purchased a dozen American flags to replace those that were hung on highway overpasses throughout the town. Members of the Robbinsville Police Department personally hung the flags.
But, they were removed by the Turnpike Authority without any notice to the Township or Police Department.
In the years since 9-11, when many of flags were first displayed on overpasses to show national pride, they have been maintained or changed by local organizations including veterans’ groups.
“The focus of the PBA is to maintain these flags with love and respect for our country, our flag, and our veterans who have served it. They also were a sign to honor those who were killed in 9-11,” said Michael Slininger, president of Robbinsville PBA.
During his daily press briefing Tuesday, 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.
“I think we should be proud of our flag at every step,” Murphy noted. “I stand with the flag.”
Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said that he was pleased that the governor reversed the policy and “the best outcomes end in compromise.”
“The flag is the first thing you are given when you are sworn in to become a citizen, and the last thing when an honorable armed service member passes on,” said Fried.
These roadways are maintained by the Township which should have been part of the discussion in the plan to remove the flags said Fried.
The Township and the PBA will split the cost of the new flags. The mayor also said that it is important that the American flag is displayed respectfully.
In addition, Hamilton 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.”
On Friday, Robbinsville Township and the Robbinsville PBA will be holding a gathering on the anniversary of 9-11 to replace the American flags that were removed.
The event be held at Robbinsville Community Park located at the intersection of Gordon Road and West Manor Way at noon. After the short program, participants will walk up West Manor Way to the Turnpike overpass on that road and will join together in re-displaying the flag.
Participants are asked to maintain social distancing and wear a face covering. Mayor Fried noted that all safety precautions will be taken to maintain a respectful event.
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