Vandals on a California college campus are being sought after destroying a memorial to honor the victims of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Occidental College’s Republican Club decorated the campus quad on Sept. 10 with 2,997 flags, which represented each of the victims who passed away 15 years ago. In the early hours of Sunday, members of the club discovered that the memorial was destroyed.
“Vandals crushed, snapped, and threw in the garbage every single flag. Not one was left in the ground,” according to the student organization’s post on Facebook. “Not only did they destroy the memorial, they put posters and flyers up that shamed the victims of 9/11.”
The students subsequently erected the disposed flags on the memorial site again in preparation of the 15th anniversary. Later, as a few students stood as guards in front of the memorial, four students snapped flags in front of their faces. According to the organization’s Facebook page, the memorial was again tampered with on Sunday morning.
Hundreds of flags were smashed and kicked, as well 50 were were thrown in the trash. However, the club doesn’t intend to cave in to the pressure of the vandals.
“We ask that all students respect the memorial for the remainder of its time in the quad. If you try to destroy it, we will rebuild it,” the club wrote.
The memorial organizer Max Woods said in an interview with the LA Times that he believed that the club wasn’t the intended target of the hostile onslaught.
“This was an attack directed at the memorial, I believe, not on the club,” he said. “The public is outraged over the disrespect shown towards the victims of 9/11.”
The university student group, Coalition Oxy For Diversity and Equity, posted a statement on Facebook saying the memorial fostered a segregated community on campus.
“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,” the group wrote on Facebook. “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.”
The group went on to write, “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.”
In recent weeks, the symbolic meaning of the American flag to the nation’s culture has been thrusted into the spotlight.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand during the national anthem, as he said he isn’t going to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Other NFL players have followed suit and have stayed seated or knelt during the “Star Spangled Banner,” while others have blasted the athletes for their political stance.
Occidental’s Office of Student Conduct is investigating the vandalism and declared such actions will not be tolerated on school grounds.
“Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment,” Erica O’Neal, acting dean of students, said in the statement to the LA Times. “The right and freedom to debate complex, contentious issues and disagree with each other is fundamental to what we do at Oxy.”
She added, “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. Let us work together to find ways to express ourselves and build a community founded on respect.”