The weekend removal of 2,996 American flags placed at Occidental College to represent the number of victims killed on 9/11 has sparked a national furor.
The Occidental College Republican Club placed the flags on the Occidental quad at the Eagle Rock campus Saturday evening in anticipation of the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks Sunday, but that morning the flags had been removed, with many trashed. “Not one was left in the ground,” the club stated.
The vandalism happened twice in the early hours Sunday, according to the group. About four students came and removed some more flags as Republican club members stood guard following the first round of early-morning removals Sunday, they said. Many of the flags ended up in a trash can. The action made national headlines and furthered a debate over patriotism sparked by NFL player Colin Kaepernick's recent refusal to stand for the national anthem.
No arrests have been made. The left-leaning group Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity didn't take credit for the removal but stated on its Facebook page that it “supports the students that carried out this action.”
“On a campus that proclaims itself time and again to be diverse, equitable and safe for all of its students, the display of American flags covering the entire academic quad disproved that proclamation,” the group, also known as CODE Oxy, stated. “When we became aware of the purpose of this display, to memorialize 9/11, we were concerned by the complete disregard for the various peoples affected by this history.
“As students of color, this symbol of the American flag is particularly triggering for many different reasons,” it stated. “For us, this flag is a symbol of institutionalized violence (genocide, rape, slavery, colonialism, etc.) against people of color, domestically as well as globally.”
The debate disintegrated into online threats of violence and racial epithets, and the Republican club warned commenters on its Facebook page to curb their anger. Sunday, it stated, was “meant to be a day of respect and remembrance for all the victims and heroes of 9/11.”
Erica O'Neal Howard, acting dean of students at Occidental, said in a statement to the “Oxy community” that “the college is investigating and will take appropriate disciplinary action.”
“The right and freedom to debate complex, contentious issues and disagree with each other is fundamental to what we do at Oxy,” she wrote. “Vandalism or other acts that substantially interfere with the rights of others to engage in protected speech violate the College’s Student Code of Conduct and the spirit of this institution.”