Crowds march in support of the troops

Residents and people from as far away as New York attended a vigil April 3 and a rally Saturday to show support for the troops and to express opposition to the order to remove several yellow ribbons from Fieldsboro’s welcome sign two weeks ago.

By: Vanessa Holt
   FIELDSBORO — Yellow ribbons still fly throughout the borough and on the town’s welcome sigh after two weeks of controversy over their placement on public property.
   Residents and people from as far away as New York attended a vigil April 3 and a rally Saturday to show support for the troops and to express opposition to the order to remove several yellow ribbons from the town’s welcome sign two weeks ago.
   Fieldsboro gained international attention in late March when Hegyi’s Liquor Store owner Diane Johnson placed yellow ribbons she had made on the Fieldsboro welcome sign, not far from her shop at the intersection of Washington and Union streets.
   She contacted local media after a borough worker told her the ribbons had to be removed, and the story of a small town that had "banned" yellow ribbons on public property quickly circulated across the country and even appeared in several British publications.
   Shortly after, Fieldsboro resident Nikki Camiso started a petition asking the borough to allow yellow ribbons on public property. She had collected several hundred signatures after the first week and the petition will be presented to the Borough Council at its next meeting, she said.
   Mayor Ed "Buddy" Tyler, who did not attend the rally, has said yellow ribbons are not specifically banned from public property, but that the Borough Council agreed to remove the ribbons after receiving several complaints. Mayor Tyler said an anonymous caller had asked what would happen if someone wanted to put any other signs or symbols on the sign, such as a Confederate flag.
   Mayor Tyler said his remarks during the past two weeks have been misunderstood. He noted that residents have never been permitted to hang items on town property without permission.
   "The governing body has to monitor whatever is put on public property and how it’s put on."
   Ms. Camiso said last week’s candlelight vigil was meant to show Fieldsboro’s support for the troops, particularly a local Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marines Expeditionary Force, Joshua Carr, who is serving in Iraq. She said she was glad to see that no more ribbons had been removed from town property.
   "I think they’re not going to do anything to try to remove the ribbons," she said. "They’ve had enough of the negative press."
   Mayor Tyler said a resolution addressing the issue may be proposed at the next Borough Council meeting on April 14.
   "There will probably be a resolution proposed about allowing yellow ribbons," he said. "We’re still working on it. We don’t want to make it restrictive-sounding and we don’t want to make it so it causes any potential safety problems."
   The ribbons that currently decorate town signs, lampposts and telephone poles throughout the borough are being left in place, he said.
   "The municipality is going to decorate an evergreen outside the municipal building with yellow ribbons, but our protestors have done half the job for us," he said.
   The rally, held near Hegyi’s Liquor Store on Saturday, attracted more than 100 people, including Curtis Sliwa, a New York City talk-radio show host and founder and president of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer group that promotes safety and citizen responsibility. Guardian Angels, recognizable by red berets and jackets, wandered through the crowd that included several people with signs supporting the troops and opposing the mayor.
   Mr. Sliwa spoke out about the injury he felt the mayor had done to the community.
   "He has tainted the people of Fieldsboro as if they are un-American in the eyes of the rest of the world," said Mr. Sliwa. "But Fieldsboro is one of the most patriotic towns in America, unlike the mayor."
   Nickie Papp of Hamilton Township wore a sign that said, "Buddy Tyler: One Man Taliban." Ms. Papp, who was raised in Fieldsboro, said she had come to the rally to show her support for the troops. She has a niece in the Army Reserves who may be deployed soon, she said.
   Doris Eck of Manville came down to Fieldsboro to support the Johnsons.
   "I cannot say enough about the cause," she said. "It’s the right one."
   She held up a sign that read, "Our sons and daughters are in need of support."
   "It’s an emotional issue," Mayor Tyler said.
   While some residents have told the mayor he will not get re-elected, he said he had already decided a year ago that this would be his last term as mayor. He has served four non-consecutive terms as mayor in the borough. For now, he said he hopes the ribbon controversy will come to a peaceful resolution.
   "I firmly believe that this, too, will pass," he said.
   The next Borough Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the municipal building.