ROBBINSVILLE — Outside the municipal building, a "thin blue line" flag is flying and some people are not happy about it.

Township resident Melissa Reilly has started an online petition to have the flag removed.

Her statement on Change.org says in part: “Make no mistake about it: we support our local police. But the truth is that this flag, which was originated as a symbol of general police support, now means something quite different. Today, it is a controversial and divisive symbol opposing the Black Lives Matter movement, and one that has no place in our municipal complex.”

She further states that “its presence on Robbinsville town property conveys a message that we stand in opposition to the fight against systemic racism. It is political. It is divisive. And it must be taken down.”

Mayor Dave Fried disagrees.

“We’ve always done this. This is part of Police Appreciation week (Aug. 2-9) and we typically fly the flag for the month of August," he said this week.

Fried said he rejects the notion the thin blue line flag opposes the Black Lives Matter movement, but Larry Hamm, the chairman of the social-justice group People’s Organization for Progress, believes the flag should be brought down, “particularly in light of the ongoing crisis of police brutality and murder of unarmed civilians that we have in the country.”

Hamm said this is an issue the citizens of Robbinsville need to resolve but he doesn’t believe most people understand the scope of brutality that is taking place in our nation.

According to prisonpolicy.org, the most recent data available shows the number of civilians killed annually by law enforcement in the United States is 1,099, while in Canada it’s 36, in Australia it’s 21, Germany 11, in the Netherlands it’s four, in England and Wales the total is three and in Japan the total number of civilians killed by police every year is two.

Hamm noted while Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population, 48% of the unarmed citizens killed by police are Black.

Fried, a Republican, said government needs to invest in more training and technology "to make sure accidents don’t happen."

“If you show me a bad police department, I will show you bad political leadership — and what we should be focused on is the mayors that have allowed police departments that are not performing to stay in office,” he said.

Fried said Robbinsville has invested funds to give police de-escalation and shoot-don’t shoot training.

“I think that we as a nation need to come together,” he said. “The more we come together and stand together united, that’s how we’re going to win.”

Hamm stressed the lives of all human beings are important and do matter but “the problem here right now in the United States is that Black lives are treated as if they don’t matter.”

He also noted citizens in other New Jersey municipalities have recently had thin blue line displays removed, including in Woodbridge and Flemington.

Fried said he remains convinced expressing appreciation for law enforcement is important.

“I’ve never seen our police more demoralized than I’ve seen recently,” he said. “And I think with the recent events some of them are really feeling the stress of the environment right now.”

He pointed out in addition to flying the thin blue line flag, the township also flies a thin red line flag, “which is a flag at the fire department expressing our appreciation for fire and EMS.”

“When we think about first responders, we have to think about all of them,” said Fried. “They all go onto harm's way every day. We have to appreciate these folks who put their lives on the line.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com