RUTHERFORD, N.J.(CBSNewYork) — Patriotism is colliding with holiday spirit in a New Jersey town after a light display was abruptly removed.
In the heart of Rutherford stands an American flag in the middle of the circle near the train station.
“I’m here eight years now and there’s never been really anything exciting in the center, so I was like this is beautiful, because to me it’s the entrance to the town,” Denise Dantec, Volare’s Restaurant said. “Then it was gone, which I thought was really horrible.”
She’s not talking about the flag, she’s talking about the lights Schule Landscaping Company strung in the shape of a Christmas tree. The lights have been taken down by Mayor Joseph DeSalvo.
“We thought we were doing what we were told to do,” Chris Schule said.
Schule and his brother Mike, who grew up in town, said they got permission from the town council to decorate the circle.
“This holiday we really went out of our way. We talked to veterans to make sure everything was OK with lights on the pole, and they said they used to decorate the flag poles on their ships before they went out to sea,” Mike said.
But as CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the mayor said the display was disrespectful.
“The flag should not be touching anything: the ground, water, any merchandise. If the flag were to be lowered to half-staff it would be touching the lights on the pole,” Mayor Joseph DeSalvo said.
Federal law does state that the flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
The brothers said they engineered the design so that the flag could be flown at half-staff and move up and down.
Some residents said there normally isn’t much of a display, so when the lights went up they were all pretty excited.
“I’m surprised to hear that because it’s something nice for the holidays,” Robert Caputo said, “I don’t think it interferes with the flag at all. I think they should put the lights back up.”
Veterans at the VFW in Lyndhurst were surprised to hear about the issue.
“Everyone wants the flag up there, wants to see light on it at night and the fact that they put lights around it, didn’t think it was hurting anything, as long as it’s not affecting the flag being raised or lowered,” Vietnam Veteran, Goerge Vonrapacki said.
The mayor is holding his ground and said the lights will not go back up.
The issue will be debated at the next borough council meeting on December 14.