A paint-splattered American flag displayed publicly on the campus of the University of Kansas has been moved to an indoor art museum after people from student veterans to the state’s governor protested the display.
The stained flag was intended to be a work of art, but it was displayed outside and out of context.
The flag was originally flown from a prominent flagpole in front of Spooner Hall on the east side of the campus. Pictures and reports about the defaced flag spread quickly across the internet on Wednesday, July 11.
Kansas Governor Dr. Jeff Colyer released a statement condemning the display.
“The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable. Men and women have fought and bled for that flag and to use it in this manner is beyond disrespectful. I have communicated with KU Chancellor Doug Girod and Board of Regents President Blake Flanders to express my disappointment that a taxpayer funded institution would allow such a display of our sacred flag, and I demand that it be taken down immediately.”
Secretary of State Kris Korbach weighed in as well. “I think it’s outrageous and inappropriate that a taxpayer supported institution would display a desecrated American flag using the excuse that it’s art. It is entirely inappropriate.”
Later that day, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod released a statement saying that the display had engendered “public safety concerns for our campus community.”
Girod ordered the flag moved to the Spencer Museum of Art at around 4:30 that afternoon.
Girod pointed out that this particular flag was part of an ongoing series of flag-based art projects. The piece, titled Untitled (Flag 2) was the last in a series of provocative flag-based creations which had been displayed at the University of Kansas’s Lawrence campus.
The piece was part of a project involving 11 different colleges, called the “Pledges of Allegiance” project.
Only two of the 16 works involved damaged or defaced American flags.
According to Chancellor Girod, the display was supposed to be controversial, but not that controversial. In his statement, he noted, “While we want to foster difficult dialogue, we cannot allow that dialogue to put our people or property in harm’s way.”
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KU student Ian Appling, who served in the U.S. Navy before starting college, was one of those who strongly objected to the public display of the defaced flag.
Appling was adamant that the flag should have been displayed inside the Spencer Museum from the start.
“It should have never belonged on a publically funded piece of property. It is an abhorrent piece of art, but it still is something that is freedom of expression,” Appling told Campus Reform.
“I fought for people’s rights to stomp and burn the flag and kneel at the National Anthem, but it is also my right as a citizen to not give a cent towards an organization that promotes or espouses values inconsistent with the United States of America,” he stated.
Appling said that he felt so strongly about the display, that if the university had not moved the flag, he would have canceled his enrollment.
Defacing or displaying a defaced American flag violates two section of U.S. Code › Title 4 › Chapter 1 › § 8:
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
However, the code does not have the force of law and has no penalties associated with it.
The Supreme Court has protected the use of the flag as a symbol in art or protest, citing First Amendment Freedom of Speech guarantees.
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