Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After flying American flags for eight years over five highway overpasses, Palmer Lake VFW in Brooklyn Park has been told to take them down.
In April, the Minnesota Department of Transportation told the VFW to take the flags off the bridges, citing a state statute.
They complied, but the VFW thinks that in this case, the law needs to make an exception.
“Apparently, we are not allowed to fly the American flag where we want to,” said Lee Ulferts, former commander of the Palmer Lake VFW. “I was outraged, especially when the person called from MnDOT. I told him, ‘Certainly we can make an exception for the American flag.’ His reply was, ‘What if somebody wanted to fly the Iraqi flag?’”
MnDOT says the issue has nothing to do with the American flag, but with safety. According to the Minnesota statute, it’s against the law to “paint, print, place or affix any advertisement or object within the limits of a highway. A MnDOT spokesperson said the flags could be a distraction to drivers.
“First of all, for eight years, it’s not been a distraction,” Ulferts said.
Ulferts believes safety has never been an issue.
“When you see how sturdy those brackets are, you’d see there would never be an issue of these coming down,” he said.
Since the VFW took their flags down, others have put theirs up.
“These flags were put up for veterans. They deserve to stay up — regardless of the situation,” said Gulf War veteran Andrew Reinhardt.
Reinhardt heard about the flags coming down, so he decided to organize his own rally on Sunday on the Regent Avenue Bridge.
Like Ulferts, he believes Old Glory belongs here.
“The flag shouldn’t come down, and if one flag has to come down, hopefully we can come back with hundreds,” Reinhardt said.
The rally is set for 6 pm. on Sunday on the bridge. So far, more than 50 people have committed to showing up. It is not affiliated with the VFW.
Reinhardt, who’s running for state representative this fall, said this isn’t about politics as much as it is bringing people together.
If someone were to put the flags back up, it would be a misdemeanor and a fine. There is talk of working with lawmakers to try and get this law changed.