FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2021
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 292-2994
(21/P011) JERSEY CITY – Acting New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and DEP Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Justice and Equity Olivia Glenn today joined with Senator Sandra Cunningham, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, and Acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Walter Mugdan to call for renewed commitment to inclusion and environmental justice during an Earth Week ceremony to raise the new Mississippi state flag at Liberty State Park.
“Liberty State Park, gateway to millions of immigrants who sought a better life, must stand as a symbol of our state’s inclusion of diverse communities,” Acting DEP Commissioner LaTourette said. “Today, we again affirm our commitment that all New Jerseyans – regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, orientation, or income – must enjoy the equal protection of our laws, including the right to live, work, learn and recreate in a safe and healthy environment.”
“Liberty State Park is one of the nation’s great urban parks,” said Deputy Commissioner Glenn. “The previous Mississippi state flag was a symbol of division and oppression. The core of environmental justice is fair treatment of all people. As we celebrate Earth Week, we call on every resident to join us in committing to justice for all, harmony, understanding and acceptance – and to work together to make New Jersey’s communities stronger and fairer by better protecting the health and welfare of all of our residents.”
“Two years ago, a constituent came to me and pointed out that in the Mississippi state flag, Jersey City had a depiction of the confederate flag flying high at Liberty State Park,” said Senator Cunningham. “While I was grateful when Governor Murphy agreed to remove the flag, I am elated to see a new Mississippi state flag rise. It represents a meaningful achievement in the ongoing effort to remove confederate symbols and statues around the country and I look forward to seeing the change we can accomplish in the next two years.”
“I look forward to seeing the Mississippi State Flag rise and stand tall with the other state flags here in New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman McKnight. “As the flags stand in unity, let us remember that together we prevail.”
“Symbols send a powerful message,” said Assemblyman Chiaravalloti. “Today, the raising of the new flag of the State of Mississippi will hopefully send a message of equity and inclusion.”
“As EPA Administrator Regan recently noted, communities whose residents are predominantly of color, Indigenous, or low-income do suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts,” said Acting EPA Regional Administrator Mugdan. “EPA is striving to do better. Environmental justice is a fundamental tenet in the work that we do. At EPA, we strive to provide equal protection for all communities.”
New Jersey leads the nation in furthering the promise of environmental justice. In September 2020, Governor Murphy signed historic legislation that empowers the DEP to facilitate the protection of overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications. New Jersey is the first state in the nation to enact such an empowering environmental justice law.
In addition, Governor Phil Murphy has charged DEP with advancing the state’s environmental justice and equity efforts by working closely with agencies across state government.
Mississippi, the Magnolia State, is the last to remove the Confederate battle flag emblem from its flag. The new flag features a white magnolia blossom centered on a blue canton framed by gold borders and on a red field. Encircling the blossom are 20 stars symbolizing the state’s place as the 20th in the union and the words “In God We Trust.” A single gold star, made of diamonds significant to the Choctaw culture, represents Native Americans.
Flags from every state have long been flown along Liberty State Park’s Freedom Way, the main thoroughfare through the park. In 2019, Governor Murphy ordered the previous Mississippi flag removed from Freedom Way because the emblem of the Confederacy that it contained stood in stark contrast to New Jersey’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.
Mississippi’s flag was replaced by the American flag, pending replacement by a new state flag. The “In God We Trust” flag, was approved by Mississippi’s voters in this past November’s elections and became the official state flag on Jan. 11 of this year.
As part of today’s flag-raising ceremony, schoolchildren from the Hudson Montessori School in Jersey City recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge was recited for the first time publicly on April 25, 1893 – 128 years ago this Sunday – at the Twin Lights of the Navesink in Monmouth County, now a state historic site preserving one of the first landmarks that greeted many immigrants as they steamed toward New York Harbor.
Often called the Gateway to America, Liberty State Park was dedicated on July 4, 1976, as New Jersey’s Bicentennial gift to the nation. The park provides stunning views of the Statue of Liberty as well as Ellis Island, where immigrants were processed upon their arrival in America.
Liberty State Park also preserves the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, a massive brick structure that once served as the departure point for millions of immigrants as they fanned out to points across America to embark on new, though uncertain, futures.