Town Ties on Yellow Ribbons in Pro-USA Rally

By Jeff McKay | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - A New Jersey town that banned "yellow ribbon" displays is defiantly showing its support for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.

On Sunday, more than 150 people, led by New York City radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa and conservative Republican politician Bret Schundler, descended on the small town of Fieldsboro, N.J., just outside the state capital of Trenton.

The rally was intended to show support for the American soldiers, while denouncing the decision of the Fieldsboro mayor, who banned the display of yellow ribbons on township property - to avoid endorsing political views, he said.

On Sunday, a crowd gathered in the parking lot of Diane Johnson's liquor store at the edge of town, where the controversy began several weeks ago, when Johnson place a yellow ribbon in support of U.S. troops on a "Welcome to Fieldsboro" signpost near the liquor store she owns with her husband.

Her simple act of patriotism mushroomed into a controversy when Mayor Edward "Buddy" Tyler told her to take down the ribbon, after he and the town council voted to ban yellow ribbons on township property.

The resulting uproar has brought international attention to Fieldsboro.

On Sunday, speakers addressing the enthusiastic crowd included Schundler, Sliwa, and Nat Broizman, who organized the rally.

"Buddy, let your people go," said Broizman, standing on the back of a pickup truck which served as an impromptu stage for the speakers. "[Mayor] Tyler said he's against the war without U.N. support. But since when did the U.N. dictate what America does?"

"Freedom isn't free," shouted Schundler to the applause of the crowd. "When we put this yellow ribbon up, what we're saluting is those men and women who are willing to die now and saluting every veteran who was willing to serve."

Johnson broke into tears when she addressed the crowd, saying, "If we don't fight for our freedom now, our children will have to do it all over again."

Other speakers called for "a regime change" in Fieldsboro to replace Mayor Tyler.

Then the crowd, waving American flags and chanting "USA," marched to the Fieldsboro Town Hall. Some in the crowd carried pictures of loved ones serving in the military and fighting in Iraq.

Along the way, the town that tried to ban yellow ribbons turned yellow, as marchers placed hundreds of yellow ribbons on signposts, trees, fences, and utility poles.

When the marchers reached the Town Hall, they found Mayor Tyler's car parked outside. Sliwa, in what he called the "crowning moment" of the rally, tied a large yellow ribbon around the hood ornament of the mayor's car.

By the time the participants ended their rally, Tyler's car and the Town Hall were adorned with yellow ribbons.

Mayor Tyler, who says he received complaints about the display of yellow ribbons on town property, stayed inside his office during the rally.

"If you choose to show everyone you support the troops by placing a yellow ribbon on your house, you can. Just don't put one on borough property," said Tyler.

"We wholeheartedly support our troops," he added. "We just the need the ability to regulate what is placed on public property."