Jersey governor reverses order banning U.S. flag road displays ahead of 9/11 after major backlash

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Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has instructed the Turnpike Authority to rescind its order banning the display of American flags ahead of the 9/11 anniversary following a massive public backlash.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority said it would not allow residents to continue hanging flags on a noted overpass and in other public spaces after claiming it could not continue to properly maintain them.

“The long-standing policy of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has been to prohibit the display of any flags, signs, or banners by private parties on Turnpike Authority property,” the statement said.

“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,” it added.

“The Turnpike and Parkway run through more than 100 municipalities and include more than 1,100 bridges and other structures. The NJTA cannot adequately monitor flags mounted by private citizens to make sure they are safely and securely hung, properly displayed, and respectfully maintained,” the statement continued.

“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,” it concluded.

The post drew no shortage of complaints from residents, many asking why, after decades, the flags became a problem — and ahead of one of the most somber occasions in recent U.S. history.

“Yet those flags in Woodbridge have been there for almost 20 YEARS without issue. At the very least you could grandfather in those particular overpasses. JS,” one user wrote.

“Aside from them being there for 20 years….any difference in looking up to see which lanes are ez pass or cash … or green light/ red light,” another wrote.

“For almost 20 years they were not an issues [sic]. Stop the nonsense,” said another.

“The flags have been there for 20 years without an issue. Now all of a sudden they’re a “distraction”? Shame on you, Murphy, or whoever else is making this decision. Put them back,” another user complained.

After hearing from a lot of constituents, Murphy ordered the Turnpike Authority to reverse its ban earlier this week.

“They’ve suspended that for the time being,” Murphy said during his Tuesday press briefing when asked about the issue, adding he first heard about it during a WPG radio call-in talk show that morning.

“Our flag represents the greatest nation in the history of the world, and that doesn’t mean we’re perfect, because we’re not, but we are a great nation, and my gut tells me that we should be proud of flying our flag,” Murphy told WPG.

A local news station did a story about the backlash over the Transit Authority’s decision on the flags, many of which were put up following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. More than 700 New Jersey residents were killed in the attacks.

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Jon Dougherty

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