Sayreville, NJ group told to remove military flags from Parkway overpass
The great Turnpike Authority flag controversy is back, this time on an overpass in Sayreville.
After the Authority last year took down displays that had gone up on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks on two Woodbridge overpasses of the Garden State Parkway and a Turnpike overpass in Robbinsville, officials decided to allow U.S. flags to be flown from overpasses two at a time.
Just before Memorial Day, the group called Patriotic Flags of Sayreville hung U.S. and military branch flags on the Main Street overpass over the Parkway.
A week later, they complied with a request to take them down but on Sunday held a rally in support of them being brought back.
"The Turnpike Authority said they received complaints about the branch flags, which triggered the call to me to have them removed," co-organizer Fred Block told New Jersey 101.5. "I don't know why they would complain. The flags are not a political message, they're not a religious message, it's patriotism. It's recognizing the people who have provided us with our freedoms."
Block said about 100 people came to the rally and marched from Sayreville police headquarters to the bridge.
"It was insane how many people were driving below and honking their horns in support and waving at us and giving us the thumbs up. It was nice to see there were people who were very like-minded and patriotic like we were," Block said.
Block said that it's important to him and co-organizer Bob Bouthilette, who is also Block's partner and a Navy vet, to at least stand up for the military flags even if they aren't allowed to fly.
"Some people think it's a waste of time. Some people think there are bigger and more important things that need attention in this state. Some people think we have no lives. But I'm not going to let the naysayers drown out what we feel is a solid mission recognizing our veterans who have served or are currently serving," Block said.
Block is not sure what his group's next step will be. He would like to talk to the Turnpike Authority about their flag policy to include military branches as he says others have already.
"They feel it's an expression of their freedom of speech. We'd love to hear from the Turnpike but I'm really not sure which direction that's going to go right now," Block said.
Legislation that would allow an unlimited number of properly maintained flags is in the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee after unanimously passing the state Senate.