FIELDSBORO, N.J. Yellow ribbons and all other war memorials have been banned from public property here, a decision that has drawn criticism from residents and business owners who want to show their support for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.
The Fieldsboro Borough Council approved the ban earlier this month, but Mayor Edward "Buddy" Tyler said it did not prohibit residents from placing memorials on their own property. He said that while town officials "certainly recommend" that residents show their support for the troops, there were other concerns that must be recognized.
"Where would you draw a line if you started allowing the use of public property to exhibit whatever cause anyone wanted?" Tyler told The Trentonian of Trenton for the paper's March 28 editions. "Suppose someone wants to tie pink ribbons, or black flags, or a Confederate flag or a Nazi flag on public property?"
Diane Johnson, who along with her husband owns a liquor store in this Burlington County town, said she was unaware of the new rule until the township told her to remove the yellow ribbons she placed on a sign that welcomes travelers to the borough.
"I'm shocked and outraged," Johnson said. The ribbons "didn't obstruct the sign in any way, and a lot of people with family members in the war came into the store to tell me how seeing the ribbons gave them a lift."
Meanwhile, in Boulder, Colo., two activists who wanted to construct a peace sign out of snow on city open space said park rangers told them they couldn't build the symbol on public property.
The activists have asked for an apology. A parks department spokeswoman said on March 28 that officials were looking into whether the rangers violated the activists' free-speech rights.
Jessica True and Mark Rolofson said activists had gathered at a shopping center parking lot on March 22 to decide what city open space they would use for the peace sign. Rolofson said rangers who had gotten wind of their plans were waiting for them at the parking lot and told them political demonstrations are not allowed on city open space.
True and Rolofson wrote city officials last week asking that the parks department publicly apologize, punish the rangers and publish a list of rights of open-space users.
"They don't have the right to just make up rules if they don't like what people are doing," True said.
She and Rolofson said they're considering a lawsuit.
Parks department spokeswoman Cathy Vauhan-Grabowski said the department was still trying to determine what happened and was taking the case seriously.
"As long as you're not breaking those rules that are in place to protect the resource, you can express yourself," she said.
City Councilman Spense Havlick said, "Especially in troubling times, we need to respect citizen freedom of expression without armed authority folks intimidating peaceful citizens."