Update 16:11 EST: People behind BicycleLobby account actually joked about it. Here are some of their Tweets:

Update 13:11 EST: According to a report from the New York Daily News, the white flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge were placed by a pro-cycling group, the Bicycle Lobby. A tweet from the group read “Earlier today we hoisted two white flags to signal our complete surrender of the Brooklyn Bridge bicycle path to pedestrians.” It is still unclear how the vandals managed to get up to the towers in order to place the flags.

White Flags have replaced the American Stars and Stripes atop Brooklyn Bridge according to news breaking on Tuesday morning. The responsibility for change has not yet been apportioned, but police and counter terrorism agents are on the scene in an attempt to figure out how the change was made and who the culprit might be.

brooklyn bridge white flags
Photograph: Mark Alhadeff via Facebook

The most immediate thought is that this morning’s piece of vandalism was not carried out by terrorists or anybody attempting to seriously undermine the United States. Likely culprits include simple vandals, and, of course, street artists who straddle the two worlds of high art and unruly vandalism.

White flag on Brooklyn Bridge mystifies investigators

No explanation for the placement of the white flags on Brooklyn Bridge has been given at this point in time, and it appears that an explanation may be difficult to come by. According to a Wall Street Journal report on the white flags, “NYPD Emergency Service Unit officers, along with counter terrorism and crime scene investigators, were at the scene conducting the investigation after receiving reports of the white flags, police said.”

The appearance of the white flags on Brooklyn Bridge was having quite an effect on social media this morning, with both Twitter and Facebook buzzing with news of the placements.

Looking at the annals of history may provide some clue as to the meaning of the white flags on Brooklyn Bridge, but most answers are less than satisfactory, and even the best fit requires a lot of scaffolding to hold together.

White Flags On Brooklyn Bridge

Surrender at Brooklyn bridge

The appearance of the flags atop Brooklyn Bridge is difficult to decode, presuming that the position was meant to be symbolic rather than just impressive or convenient. There was a battle of Brooklyn during the revolutionary war, but it took place long before the bridge itself was constructed, and on August 27, too far from today’s date for the calendar to be of importance.

The battle of Brooklyn was the first major engagement in the revolutionary war, and was the biggest of the entire war in terms of number of combatants. The engagement, which took place on August 27 1776, was the beginning of a campaign that saw the British take control of New York city from the American rebels. British forces held the city for much of the remaining war.

Much of the battle took place in Brooklyn heights, an area in which one of the ends of Brooklyn Bridge lies today. Despite some connection between the two events, there appears to be little to really link those events of more than two centuries ago with the placement of white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge today. The American army did not choose to surrender on that day, though they did escape from the battlefield after several strategic setbacks.

Even if it is assumed that the placement of the white flags on Brooklyn Bridge is, in fact, a reference to the Battle of Brooklyn, it is unclear what the meaning of the placement today could be.