9/11 Memorial Flags Trashed at California College

9/11 Memorial Flags Trashed at California College
Susan Dutca-Lovell

Vandals allegedly trashed the 2,997 American flags planted across Occidental College's campus as a 9/11 Memorial by the college's Republican Club. The broken and trashed flags were replaced by fliers that read, "RIP the 1,455,590 innocent Iraqis who died during the U.S. invasion for something they didn't do."

The memorial, which was approved by, and registered with the college, was quickly uprooted by Sunday morning. Occidental Republicans guarded the remaining flags to prevent some students from doing further damage and "vowed to replant" and "rebuild" the memorial. In a statement, the group noted that "there was no reason to damage the memorial...this is beyond politics, this is about those lives that were so tragically taken."

The Coalition for Diversity and Equity (CODE) at Occidental offered a different explanation. "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…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. For us, this flag is a symbol of institutionalized violence (genocide, rape, slavery, colonialism, etc.) against people of color, domestically as well as globally. Additionally, if the goal of the memorial is to commemorate the lives lost during 9/11, the singular nature of the American flag fails to account for the diversity of lives lost on that day."

Even at national sporting events, where some athletes refuse to stand during the national anthem, the American flag has become an object that "cannot be viewed as something that means the same to all people." For some, it represents the opposite of freedom: a reminder of the "polarization" and "marginalization" of "people of color living within the United States."

In your opinion, was the dismantling of the 9/11 memorial justified? What disciplinary action, if any, should be taken as a result of the destruction of the sanctioned campus memorial? Would you have acted similarly if you did not agree with such a memorial display?

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