Middletown South High School holds ceremony honoring police, but ACLU has concerns

A special ceremony was held prior to the Middletown South high school football game that honored the men and women in uniform, but the American Civil Liberties Union says the ceremony raises some concerns.

While many professional athletes have made headlines recently for choosing to sit down during the national anthem as a form of protest, the players in Monmouth County chose to hold an event honoring police and military.

Over 100 officers from local police departments, military personnel and first responders took to the field. The Port Authority bagpipe and drum band played and there was a flyover by the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit after the national anthem.

"I'm very proud of Middletown for doing this. I'm very proud they took this opportunity to honor our first responders," says Middletown resident Jennifer Smith.

Prior to the ceremony, the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to the school expressing concern about the event.

"Communities across New Jersey often recognize the contributions of law enforcement, the armed forces, and first responders, but these events should not have the effect of intimidating people who hold views on systemic racism and social justice," says ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Dianna Houenou.

Houenou's statement continued, "It is a disservice to 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."

But event organizers say they welcomed everyone to attend the ceremony, no matter what their views on the issue are.

"I respect everyone's right to take a knee but I also respect the county," says Middletown Police Lt. Steven Dollinger. "My grandfather was in World War II, my father Air Force and I respect their right to celebrate.

After the ceremony, Middletown South played against Toms River High School North, its biggest game of the season.

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