- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy responded to backlash Tuesday by announcing he had overruled the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s decision to remove informal American Flag displays from highway overpasses ahead of the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“I didn’t like what I heard. After I got off the call, we spoke with the team,” Mr. Murphy told reporters during a Tuesday press briefing on the coronavirus, NJ.com reported. “At least for the time being, the Turnpike Authority has suspended that.”

The governor had initially told radio host Harry Hurley that he planned to reverse the agency’s plan to remove the highway flag displays, some of which have been there since the immediate aftermath of 9/11, after veterans’ groups and hundreds of demonstrators had rallied in protest.

The Turnpike Authority had drawn condemnation in recent days for a statement saying flags hung by private citizens could not be adequately maintained and that they had to be taken down.

“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, and for good reason,” the statement read, in part. “While we hope that everyone who wants to display the American flag finds a suitable location to do so, we believe that limiting the flags displayed on Turnpike Authority property to ones hung and maintained by Turnpike Authority staff is the best way to assure that all flags in the Turnpike and Parkway right of way are treated with the respect they deserve.”

A bipartisan group of New Jersey lawmakers said they planned to introduce a bill to exempt American flags from the Turnpike Authority statute, and to allow law enforcement and veterans organizations to maintain the displays.

Robbinsville Township PBA President Michael Slininger said his PBA chapter purchased and replaced more than a dozen American flags on overpasses that had already been removed, Bridgewater Courier News reported.

Other protesting groups celebrated the governor’s reversal.

“I think it’s great and can’t wait to see the flags back up. We are in some dark times across our country and we need to be able to express a unified spirit of Americanism,” Daniel Dunn, American Legion state Executive Committeeman for Middlesex County, told NJ.com.

Kenneth Hagemann, Veterans of Foreign Wars state adjutant, added, “Although the removal of the flags should have never occurred, the Veterans of Foreign Wars is pleased with the Governor’s reversal of the flag ban.”

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