Local officials in New Jersey are criticizing the state’s turnpike authority for allegedly taking down American flags that were hung along overpasses in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11 to honor veterans and those who died defending the country, according to authorities and reports.
Michael Slininger, president of the police union representing Robbinsville Township, near Trenton, said the group had just paid to replace the more than 12 flags that had been either “missing or tattered” from the overpasses along the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 195 – which they had done “to continue the tradition of honoring our veterans and those lost in service for our country.”
“American flags have been flown on overpasses throughout the state and throughout the nation since 9/11,” Slininger wrote Monday on a post to the Robbinsville Township Police Benevolent Association’s Facebook page. “Now, as we approach the anniversary of that horrific day, we are extremely disappointed to announce that the NJ Turnpike Authority saw fit to remove all flags on overpasses covering the N.J.T.P. last week, replacing them with signs citing … a code which is meant to apply to advertisement material or improper road signage.”
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority told News 12 New Jersey it’s had a “longstanding policy” that prohibited “the display of any flags, signs or banners by private parties on Turnpike Authority property.”
“While we appreciate the desire of some New Jersey residents to express their patriotism in these turbulent times by displaying flags on turnpike and parkway overpasses, Turnpike Authority regulations do not allow it,” the statement continued.
Slininger said the PBA had planned on maintaining the newly replaced flags, as it had done in the past, and that they were “firmly secured” and did not appear to provide any issues for traffic or passing motorists.
“We cannot understand why the N.J.T.P.A. has suddenly decided to abandon a tradition of patriotism and respect for our veterans. It is not known what happened to the brand new flags that we put up, but we truly hope they were respectfully disposed of, if not displayed elsewhere,” he said. “The placement of the flags was done in the same manner that has been done for nearly twenty years.”
The PBA has announced plans to rehang American flags on overpasses throughout Robbinsville on Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, the NJTA did not respond to Fox News’ request seeking comment regarding the reasoning behind the decision.
On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in protest of the NJTA’s decision to remove the flags, News 12 reported.
Carmine Pannullo, a 9/11 first responder, told the news station he believed hanging or erecting the flags was the "least that we can do" to honor the lives lost during or as a result of the terror attack.
"It's something that if you experience, you'll never forget," Pannullo told News 12. "So the mere thought of flags just being flown on a bridge, it's kind of silly compared to all those lives lost on 9/11."