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Flag-rant violation! Brooklyn Bridge’s American flags swapped for white flags • Brooklyn Paper

Flag-rant violation! Brooklyn Bridge’s American flags swapped for white flags

We surrender — not: Someone replaced the American flags atop the towers of the city’s most iconic span with white flags sometime before Tuesday morning.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

There will be no white flag above our door.

Two bleached flags mysteriously took the place of the American flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge’s two 276-feet towers early on Tuesday morning.

The banners waved over the city for several hours until police scaled the cables of the iconic span and removed them. One Brooklyn pol said in no uncertain terms that the borough won’t back down to pranksters, no matter what their intent.

“If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing,” Borough President Adams said. “The public safety of our city is of paramount importance, particularly our landmarks and bridges that are already known to be high-risk targets. We will not surrender our public safety to anyone, at any time.”

The stealth artists responsible apparently crept up the cables on either side of the bridge, blocking the lights illuminating the flag on the Brooklyn side at 3:30 am and the Manhattan side’s at 3:42 am, according to police.

The culprits used aluminum baking pans to shroud the lights, according to deputy commissioner of counter-terrorism John Miller, speaking at a press conference inside police headquarters.

Construction workers spotted the switcheroo at 5:30 am and alerted the city, Miller said.

The anti-terror honcho said he doesn’t think the gag had any connection to politics.

“It may have been somebody’s art project,” he said.

His boss said that the Police Department is nevertheless taking the flags seriously.

“This is a matter of concern despite the motive,” police chief Bill Bratton said.

Video shows four or five people crossing the bridge as a group at around 3:10 am, plus a few more minutes later, according to Miller.

“These people are of particular interest,” he said.

Miller said the un-sanctioned flags appeared to have been bleached.

Police will conduct tests to determine where the flags came from and how they were altered, he said.

Miller speculated that the vandals may have climbing experience from working construction and said that there may have been “a good deal of pre-operation planning.”

They circumvented locked gates midway up the cable, which required special equipment and some serious guts, Miller said.

He added that, though the bridge towers are extremely visible, the Police Department is more concerned with structurally vulnerable roadway and support infrastructure.

The Brooklyn Bridge was the target of a 2002 Al Qaeda plot and former police chief Ray Kelly boasted to the New York Times in 2011 that highly visible security measures, including police cars at either end and a police boat in the East River, deterred the attack.

The measures did not faze the graffiti vandal who made a big mark on the Manhattan Bridge side of a support in 2012, though cops later arrested a suspect for the tagging, according to the New York Daily News.

Police responding to the latest visual disruption closed the bridge’s busy footpath around 11:30 am, then officers outfitted in hard hats and climbing gear ascended the cables and removed the flags around noon.

Tourists trying to take a stroll over the bridge were upset about the closure, but said they were willing to wait it out.

“We only have one day in Brooklyn, so we’re pretty disappointed,” said Maren Messer, visiting with her family from Germany. “But we’ll try to see if it re-opens soon.”

The path appeared to have reopened at 1:40 pm.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Half mast: Police closed the bridge to pedestrians around 11:30 am as police officers scaled the span’s cables and pulled down the unauthorized flags.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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