SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- When Amanda Skinner and her three-year-old daughter, Cadence, hit the road each day, they count the American flags that line each side of Highway 67.
"She'll count as many as she can from the time we get on the 67 until the time we get off," Skinner said.
On Wednesday afternoon, that number was exactly zero.
A Caltrans worker removed the 100-plus flags, which had been affixed to the fences since the Fourth of July. The agency said they were a distraction to drivers. But that was not going to fly with members of the community.
As soon as he found out, Darrick Parmer began leading the charge to put the flags back up, starting with North Woodside Avenue. He said people put up the flags in honor of active duty military, veterans, and loved ones lost to COVID.
"It's hard to put into words, it's just the feelings in your body, it's mesmerizing to me sometimes, it's not distracting," he said. "I look at them and I keep driving and I understand that we live in America and we need to be proud of it."
But just minutes after doing an interview with ABC 10News on Thursday, a Caltrans crew removed the flags again.
Undeterred, Parmer went to Caltrans Santee headquarters, got the flags back, with plans to put them right back up.
"Go right ahead, lock me up, take me to jail, I'm not afraid," he said.
He says putting them up is his right to free speech.
In a statement, Caltrans said safety was its top priority and that it understands that flags are meaningful to the people who placed them:
"However any distraction on the highway presents an immediate safety hazard for motorists. Additionally, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously held that the flag is considered a form of speech, and Caltrans cannot differentiate between which banners or flags it removes regardless of the message. For safety and to comply with the court decision, the department needs to remove the flags from State Route 67."
Parmer said Thursday evening that groups were getting ready to put the flags right back up.