DelDOT removes Nassau bridge flags

African-American flag briefly joined Thin Blue Line flags
August 6, 2018

Flags showing support for police have riled up area residents across all political persuasions. A new flag showing support for African-Americans popped up over the weekend.

Department of Transportation officials removed all flags from the Nassau bridge Aug. 6.

"While the blue line flags and sign placed on the Nassau bridge were a nice gesture by members of the community to honor Master Cpl. [William] Matt, these types of displays are not permitted ... [by] rules which prevent any unapproved signage or display from being placed in medians and within 10 feet of our roadways," said DelDOT's Director of Community Relations C.R. McLeod.

DelDOT communicated this to Delaware State Police and those responsible for placing the items that they needed to be removed and that DelDOT will pursue a formal bridge recognition of Master Cpl. Matt's service with the help of local legislators, McLeod said.

Seven Thin Blue Line flags had been illegally secured to the guardrail on the northbound side of Route 1 on the bridge the last several weeks. Then on Aug. 4 or 5, a Pan-African flag was attached to the guardrail at the base of the north end of the bridge. The red, black and green flag is also known as the Black Liberation Flag and is recognized as a flag supporting the African-American community.

"No flags on the guardrails," McLeod said early Aug. 6.

He said he notified DSP that all flags would be removed Aug. 6. McLeod previously told the Cape Gazette they would be removed in late July, but the flags remained in place for another week.

The Pan-African flag disappeared midday Aug. 6 before DelDOT had a chance to remove it. McLeod said it was not DelDOT staff who removed the flag.

DSP spokeswoman Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said the owner of the flag reported it missing about 4 p.m., Aug. 6. 

The battle of the flags started July 10, when Dave Repass put up a single Thin Blue Line flag on the bridge following the sudden death of his friend, Delaware State Police Master Cpl. William Matt.

The first flag was removed by a Wilmington woman who was charged July 13 with theft, criminal mischief and traffic charges. Repass then put up a second flag, which was also removed. He put a third flag up the day of Matt's funeral July 16.

Six more flags were added and secured to the guardrail by someone else in the weeks following.

A second woman was then arrested and faces charges for tampering with the flags. She was charged July 24 with attempt to commit theft under $1,500 and criminal mischief.

An unofficial sign naming the Nassau bridge "Bill's Bridge" also appeared, but it was removed from a speed limit sign July 25 at the request of DelDOT.

An unscientific online poll hosted by the Cape Gazette asked readers what should be done with the flags. Nearly two-thirds of responders said to leave the flags, while 25 percent said to remove them and 11 percent did not care what was done with them.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.