Brooklyn Bridge white flag mystery solved

By: CBS/Associated Press
By: CBS/Associated Press

NEW YORK, NY (CBS/Associated Press) -- A marijuana activist who goes by the name The Rev. Bud Green has claimed responsibility for the idea of replacing two giant American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with white ones, according to the New York Daily News.

Green reportedly told the paper on Thursday that he planned to put more flags up later, but his plan was thwarted when security was increased on the bridge.

Police previously said that four or five people climbed the bridge's two towers in the early hours of July 22 and replaced the two American flags with what appeared to be whitewashed or faded versions.

The operation involved disabling a pair of spotlights and appeared to have been carefully planned.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the security breach at the bridge "a wake-up call" and said he was "absolutely concerned."

New York police Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller said at the time that police did not believe the incident was connected to any terror threat.

Green reportedly told the New York Daily News that he is the founder of a pro-marijuana and anti-government organization dubbed "the POT party," which stands for People Opposing Tyranny.

According to the paper, Green said he came up with the idea of swapping the flags, but did not actually put the plan into effect. Instead, he reportedly said, the men who did the deed are "professionals" who he does not know by name.

American flags fly from above the pillars year-round and are replaced by Department of Transportation workers when they become frayed, police said. They are lit from the bottom by a lamp at the base of each tower at night.

Miller said that as of around 8:30 p.m. on July 21, the American flags were still flying on the Brooklyn and Manhattan towers of the bridge. But around 5:30 a.m. the next day, construction workers noticed the white flags had taken their place.

Surveillance video revealed that around 3:10 a.m., several people were seen crossing the bridge - four or five of them in a group. Several minutes later, the light that normally illuminates the American flag on the Brooklyn side of the bridge flickered and went out, Miller said.

About 12 minutes after that, the light on the Manhattan side of the bridge also went out, he said.

When members of the Emergency Service Unit went to the top of the bridge later in the morning to document the scene, they found two 20-foot by 11-foot flags on each tower, which appeared to be American flags with stars and stripes that had been bleached white.

Police also found large aluminum pans that had been affixed with zip-ties to cover up the lights that normally illuminate the flags.

Miller said the flag replacement operation appeared to have been pre-planned, since someone had to compromise a locked gate and know the size of the pan needed to cover the light.

He said someone with experience climbing in construction or bridge work also may have been involved, and the culprit may have scaled the bridge before.

Whoever placed thee white flags, once apprehended, will likely be charged with criminal trespass, malicious mischief and reckless endangerment, Miller said at the time.

Authorities have not commented on the alleged claims made by Green.


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