FAIRBANKS — Watchful passers-by may notice something different about the Cushman Street bridge this week. The 50 state flags lining the bridge were removed Monday morning.
The display, which included the flag of each state in the United States, was put up and is maintained by Festival Fairbanks, a nonprofit community development organization.
Julie Jones, the nonprofit group’s executive director, said the organization elected to take the flags down because the wear and tear they had sustained was beyond an acceptable level.
“We usually would have replaced them by now,” Jones said.
While Jones said the condition of the flags was the primary reason they were taken down, it wasn’t the only factor involved. She admitted the inclusion of the Mississippi flag — which contains a version of the Confederate flag in its design — in the display factored into the organization’s decision-making process.
“We got a lot of calls in both directions about the whole Mississippi thing,” Jones said.
Jones said Festival Fairbanks wasn’t going to take down just the Mississippi flag while leaving the others up on the bridge, but given the condition of the flags on display, Festival Fairbanks staff decided they might as well take them all down.
“We weren’t going to take down just one flag. It costs us a lot of money to have the truck come out,” Jones said. “(But) I was kind of embarrassed by the state of the flags ... so we thought we might as well take them down now.”
Jones said the flags most likely won’t be put back up until after construction near the bridge is completed.
She said they definitely will not be put back up this summer.
Several weeks ago, the University of Alaska Fairbanks took down the Mississippi flag from its flag display at Cornerstone Plaza on campus. UAF’s decision followed that of many organizations elsewhere in the country after a shooting at an historic black church in South Carolina sparked national debate about the flag as a symbol of perpetuating racism.
Shortly after removing the Mississippi flag from its display, UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers put the flag back up in the display. Rogers, in a post to his Facebook page, said he felt it was in UAF’s best interested to return the flag to the display but that he did so “reluctantly.”