A number of flags placed above a freeway overpass in Riverside honoring the 13 U.S. Marines killed in the recent Afghanistan attack were damaged and stolen for unknown reasons.
It began with a set of 13 American flags and one Marine Corps flag that was set up during Labor Day weekend over the Ivy overpass on the 91 Freeway.
Shortly after they were installed, all of the flags were completely shredded, Riverside Police Department spokesperson Ryan Railsback told The Epoch Times.
On Sept. 7, a family went to the Ivy overpass to replace the damaged flags with a fresh set of 13 American flags and one marine flag when another family showed up at the same time with another 13 American flags, which were installed on the other side of the overpass, Railsback said.
Unfortunately within 24 hours, all 27 flags were stolen.
At the same time that the 27 flags were being put up, the Riverside Chamber of Commerce put up 13 American flags and one Marine flag on the 14th street overpass, and the Marine flag was stolen the following day.
The police department is following up on slim leads as to who might committing the vandalism, but there are currently no suspects, given that the area around the Ivy overpass is between residential neighborhoods with few security cameras.
It’s also unclear whether there was one person or multiple people destroying the memorials.
Railsback speculated that whoever damaged the first flags could have had a mental illness; but whoever purposely stole all 27 flags likely was intentional in their actions.
“We do have homeless people in these areas, but the one who cut the first flags, it could have been some kids, some angry person, some mentally ill homeless person walking by and decided to cut them and rip them. Whoever did that maybe wasn’t in their right mind,” Railsback said.
“But when you steal 27 flags the next day, you know what you’re doing. That’s not someone coming by deranged, that’s behavior of someone who’s more intentional and probably in their right mind to some extent. But we won’t know for sure [unless we catch them].”
Railsback said that if the person was looking to divide the community, the opposite effect actually happened, with people buying up flags to unify over both the 13 soldiers killed in the Kabul attack as well as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“Right after 9/11, it was this sense of everybody coming together and talking about what they have in common more than what they don’t, and just a sense of unity and support for many different things, but back then it was the military and the people who were lost that day. So, you kind of get a little sense of that [here], with part of it relating to the 13 [service members] who were killed, but also having the 20th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow. It’s kind of a combination of both that we’re starting to see people come up.”
Residents in Riverside are starting to place 13 flags around their houses in support of the soldiers, and due to the ones on the overpass being ruined, another group has put 13 more flags on the Adams Street overpass. Two of the 13 soldiers killed were from Riverside, something that Railsback said really hit close to home for the community.