A New Jersey high school has come under fire by the American Civil Liberties Union after holding a ceremony honoring law enforcement, military and first responders before a football game Friday night.
According to NJ.com, an organizer with the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU claimed the ceremony sent a “frightening message.”
Middletown police Deputy Chief Stephen Dollinger organized the event before a highly-anticipated game between Middletown High School South and Toms River High School North.
The ceremony also honored a Linden police officer who was wounded in a shootout with Ahmad Khan Rahimi, who is accused of planting IEDs in Seaside Park, Elizabeth and New York City.
Dolliger told the Asbury Park Press that the event was meant to respond to pro athletes who have taken a knee during the National Anthem, following the actions of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Dollinger’s comments to the Asbury Park Press drew scrutiny from the ACLU chapter. The group sent a memo to Middletown High School South officials condemning the event. The letter was also signed by the Central Jersey Chapter of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Greater Long Brach NAACP.
"As initially described, the event appeared to honor police officers, veterans, service members, and first responders," the chapter wrote in the letter.
It continued, "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.”
One ACLU organizer, Jasmine Crenshaw, claimed the event sent a “frightening message” that police wouldn’t tolerate people expressing views on the nation’s "history of unequal treatment and systematic oppression," Fox News reports.