American flags were ordered taken down Friday from poles on city-owned property by Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson, who initially declined to reveal the reason for the decision but later released a statement indicating it was a precaution due to "outside groups" potentially coming to the city.
"Regarding recent information received about outside groups coming through our area today, it seemed prudent to protect our American flags by placing them in safekeeping for a brief period of time," Wilkerson said in a statement posted to social media just before 2 p.m. "Our citizens are rightly concerned about our nation’s symbol. They will be returned tomorrow."
The statement did not indicate what groups Wilkerson was referring to.
Wilkerson made no mention of any outside groups or concerns about the safety of the flags earlier Friday.
"I recommended them being taken down," Wilkerson told the Daily News on Friday morning, without providing a reason. "I don't want to comment on that at the present time."
Bare flagpoles were seen Friday morning at Bowling Green Police Department headquarters, City Hall and other city buildings.
However, a Bowling Green man named Eric Phelps was seen late Friday morning raising a flag on the pole in front of City Hall, apparently on his own initiative. Phelps said he had other flags he planned to install on city flagpoles.
"I spoke with the mayor and asked why the flag was down," Phelps told the Daily News. "He told me that he could tell me, but I would have to keep our conversation confidential. I refused. ...
"That flag has been bloodied, torn and soiled on countless battlefields and has always been picked up. There is never an excuse for it coming down."
Across the street from City Hall, flags were still flying Friday at the Warren County Courthouse.