MILLBURN, NJ — In a reversal of an earlier decision at their Sept. 1 meeting, the Millburn Township Committee announced they would not be flying a flag in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
The decision comes amid split reactions to the proposed flag being flown, as some residents in town were in favor, and others were against the measure. In addition to their verbal opposition at township committee meetings, residents opposed to flying the BLM flag also circulated a petition calling for the township committee to fly a thin blue line flag.
In addition to a reversal of the decision, the township committee also struck ordinance 2566-20 from its spot in the first reading. The ordinance would have amended Chapter II, Article VI of the township code, adding Section 2-48D to the code, which would have established policies for the display of flags in the township.
In the committee reports portion of the meeting, Deputy Mayor Tara Prupis read a statement into the record regarding the controversy over the flag. Pruips had been one of the leading voices on the township committee in support of flying the flag at the last meeting.
“After serious reflection, advice of counsel, and further consideration of my motion during the last meeting to raise the Black Lives Matter flag, I would like to amend and postpone my efforts to raise the flag at this time,” Prupis said. “Please be assured that my support and public declaration for resolving racial justice issues has not wavered.”
Prupis continued, saying, “In the interest of a wider community engagement and consideration of all points of view, I would like to suggest that the motion be incorporated under, or forwarded to a diverse policy committee that would set the rules and regulations for such advocation.”
In her statement, Prupis also put forth the suggestion for a “community-based diversity commission,” which would be used to establish the protocols of flying flags or banners, including where and when to fly or hang them.
Residents both in the township chambers and attending the meeting on Zoom weighed in with their thoughts. Much like the previous meeting, there were both residents for and against the decision made by the township committee.
Two of those residents were Carisa Reilly and Jillian Braunstein. Reilly was at the meeting in support of flying the BLM flag, while Braunstein was in opposition to it. Following the meeting, both spoke on the subject.
Reilly expressed her disappointment with the reversal, and said that in her opinion, the decision showed a lack of principle.
"Given the opportunity to support antiracism in Millburn via the BLM flag, like surrounding twns, the Millburn TC instead took a solid step backwards, ignoring the systemic racism which they acknowledge exists in our town," Reilly said. "The TC has shown itself to be an ally to no one in the antiracism arena."
Braunstein however, was in favor of the change in direction, and said that in her opinion, the flag would have only served to further divide residents.
"I am pleased to hear that the committee decided to rescind hanging the Black Lives Matter flag," Braunstein said. "Because the truth is that racism will end when people stop defining other people by the color of their skin. We should all just see each other as people."
She also advocated honoring Millburn Police Officers by observing National Thank a Police Officer day, which will be this upcoming Saturday, Sept. 19.
While an ad-hoc committee is seen by the township committee as the way to move forward in deliberations on how, when and why specialty flags and banners are flown in Millburn, the process is still early, and a number of details regarding the ad-hoc committee have not yet been planned out.