COLONIA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — You may have seen them on your commute — American flags posted on highway overpasses.
But one New Jersey state agency is facing backlash from residents, and even the governor, for plans to remove them, CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Tuesday.
American flags have been proudly displayed over Garden State highways ever since the Sept. 11 attacks nearly 19 years ago. They have been placed by private citizens to show support for first responders and those serving overseas.
“I think it’s just a reminder to anyone that comes to New Jersey that we love our country and we celebrate those who have given the last final measure,” Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso said.
But the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has been removing those flags from the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.
The agency posting on Facebook that it cannot adequately monitor flags mounted by private citizens to make sure they are securely hung, properly displayed, and respectfully maintained.
Republican DiMaso, of Monmouth County, said it’s ridiculous the state would take down American flags.
“To have them make that decision now, just a few days before the anniversary of Sept. 11, it really kind of crushed me a little bit,” DiMaso said.
The Turnpike Authority also caught a lot of backlash from residents for taking down the flags. Mike Houlihan, an Army veteran, tends bar at the VFW hall in Cliffwood Beach.
“Why? They’re not hurting anybody. They’re not blocking the view of anybody. It’s better than looking at a barbed wire fence,” Houlihan said.
But Peyton Oliver, a truck driver and also an Army veteran, said he doesn’t mind not having flags on overpasses.
“If they say that’s not the correct spot for it, then I guess they have their reasons. So I have no problem with it,” Oliver said.
Meanwhile, it appears no one at the Turnpike Authority told Gov. Phil Murphy about the decision to remove flags. He said Tuesday he is squashing the plan.
“I didn’t like what I heard. We are the greatest nation on Earth, even though we are far from perfect, and our flag represents that nation,” Murphy said. “So the Turnpike Authority has suspended doing that until we can find a good way forward.”
Caloway reached out to the Turnpike Authority multiple times for comment, but did not receive a response.
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