A chapter of the ACLU criticized a pregame ceremony meant to honor soldiers, police and other first responders held before a recent high school football game in New Jersey as a “frightening message.”
School officials had approved the ceremony honoring police and first responders held on October 21 before the Shore Conference game between the Middletown South and Toms River North high school football teams played in Middletown, New Jersey, the the Star Ledger reports.
Organized by Middletown Deputy Chief Stephen Dollinger, the special ceremony featured State Police Pipes and Drums of the Blue and Gold, state and local mounted units, soldiers from all service branches, along with representatives of other nearby police agencies, according to the paper.
The reason for the ceremony was to honor the local officer who was wounded in a shoot out with terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the man accused of perpetrating the recent bombings in Seaside Park, Elizabeth and New York City.
But in a letter to the school district, the local ACLU said the ceremony sent a “frightening message.”
Jasmine Crenshaw, an organizer with the ACLU-NJ, called the whole event a “frightening message” that tells citizens that police won’t tolerate protests over police violence.
“As initially described, the event appeared to honor police officers, veterans, service members, and first responders,” the ACLU wrote in a letter. “According to press reports, however, the event is being used to intimidate and ostracize people who express their views about systemic racism and social just.”
“Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the constitution, and it is a disservice to the students and players that an event that should focus on them, their families, and their communities is being used to send a message that people who express concerns about disparities in the criminal justice system are unwelcome, disloyal or unpatriotic,” the letter added.
Chief Dollinger was discouraged at what he feels is a mischaracterization of the event.
“This is just about honoring our country and the men and women of law enforcement and first responders,” the chief said. “That’s all this is about.”
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