Disputes Erupt in NJ Towns Over ‘Divisive’ Blue Line Symbols
National protests against racism and police violence have led to renewed attention on "thin blue line" displays in New Jersey municipalities.
In Flemington last week, Democratic officials painted over the blue stipe that had been painted between the double-yellow traffic lines in the middle of Main Street.
In Woodbridge, meanwhile, Democratic municipal officials are resisting a call to have the blue line on Main Street painted over.
Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver called the stripe a "shameful, divisive dividing line."
The line was painted over just before a "black lives matter" protest was held in Flemington, attended by 1,500 people.
On Monday, however, a woman re-painted a small section of the traffic line in front of police headquarters blue. Police shared pictures of the woman in hopes of identifying her.
An online petition asking Woodbridge officials to remove the blue line as well as a "blue lives matter" flag from a Turnpike overpass in Sewaren says the "controversial and divisive symbols send the message that Woodbridge is an anti-Black Lives Matter town."
"The blue lives matter flag was finally removed from the bridge only after township residents were told to instead contact the NJ Turnpike Authority, who promptly showed up and took the offensive flag down," the petition says. "The blue line painted down Main Street has yet to be acknowledged or addressed, and was insultingly still there during our community's first Black Lives Matter rally on June 7th."
A spokesman for the township told NJ.com that the municipality has no intention of removing the line, which was painted about six years ago.
During Monday night's Flemington Borough Council meeting, Driver acknowledged that the timing of the line's removal was done with the rally in mind and called it part of a "perfect storm" of events that came together that helped her reach her decision.
"That blue line over the course of the past year and a half I've heard from many residents in this town who felt threatened by it and who felt unwelcome by it and it was time to make it go away," Driver said.
She said that under state traffic laws, the blue line would have disappeared when the double yellow line it was inside was repainted in preparation for the reopening of retailers.
"We want to make that a welcoming place for people to come and visit," Driver said.
She also noted that the 2016 resolution authorizing the blue line expired at the end of that year and should have been renewed.
In a letter to the editor of TAP into Flemington/Raritan, Driver said the blue line had been painted because then-Councilman Brian Swingle was upset at a Black Lives Matter sign placed in a downtown window.