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A high school football game in New Jersey has sparked controversy due to its “frightening message” against national anthem protesters.

Middletown police deputy chief Stephen Dollinger organized a ceremony to honor those who serve, before a game between Middletown South High School and Toms River North High School. Along with celebrating those who’ve risked their lives for their country, the ceremony was reportedly also meant to be a response to those who have protested the national anthem by kneeling. Dollinger stated, “It’s OK to stand up for social justice, inequality and reform. It’s another thing to not stand up for the national anthem.”

Dolliger’s comment about the ceremony got the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. The union wrote a letter to the district, saying, “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 was reportedly endorsed by the Central Jersey Chapter of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Greater Long Branch NAACP. ACLU-NJ organizer Jasmine Crenshaw said of the event, “Entrance to one of the biggest sporting events in the area should not require that someone accept an atmosphere that suppresses political protest,” claiming the ceremony symbolized law enforcement’s refusal to tolerate peaceful protest on the U.S.’s “history of unequal treatment and systematic oppression.”

On Sunday, the organizations and the police department squashed their beef after the ACLU said it was simply defending protesters free speech. ACLU Policy Counsel, Dianna Houenou, said in a statement, “We’re happy to hear Deputy Chief Dollinger agrees that students can exercise their free speech at sporting events, including expressing their views on social justice or choosing not to stand for the national anthem.”

Source: Daily Mail |PHOTOCREDIT: Getty 

 

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