Students tear up, destroy flags set out to honor Veterans Day at Brown University

American flags planted at Brown University in preparation for Veterans Day were pulled from the ground and destroyed by students before being discarded.

The Rhode Island-based Ivy League school placed flags on the campus’ Main Green on Thursday in observance of Veterans Day, lining the pathways and preparing the grounds for an annual ceremony by the Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs.

Student Nicholas Strada reports that he came out of class on Thursday to find a flag dangling on a snapped stick. When he attempted to repair the flags, he was appalled at what happened next.

“I spent 1.5 hours outside taping them back together and putting all of them back in the ground, with a few confrontations,” Strada said in regards to the video of the incident, which he posted to Facebook. “Only 2 people out of hundreds of people that passed by stopped to help. One person actually stomped on and snapped all of the ones I put back and when i asked her to stop and explained that they were for Veterans Day, she said ‘I don’t care about that’. ”

Other video footage -posted to YouTube by Campus Reform- has surfaced of those repairing the flags being ridiculed by students.

To make matters worse, the school made no mention of the incident through officially published channels, with the only news of the incident coming from the student publication at the Brown Daily Herald and a follow-up statement by the heads of school administration under the topic of “post-election issues”, titled “Uniting as a Community.”

According to the student publication, the responses by students over the incident were mixed at best.

“I’d like to appreciate everyone who has been removing the flags from the Main Green,” one anonymous student wrote on the Brown Bears Admirers Facebook Group. “As much as I know that these flags are there to represent Veterans Day, when I look at them, all I feel is overwhelming nausea, and all I see is a symbol of the oppressing white nationalism that has jeopardized myself and so many others at Brown and abroad.”

Some veterans and volunteers organized a sit-in to protect the flags. Strada said that “there’s been a tremendous outpouring of support and positivity.”

However, not all comments were so positive. Student Katie Hammaker read one comment made in response to the sit-in that hit her the hardest:

“If only these people put this much energy into protecting marginalized people as they (did) into protecting these flags.”

For Hammaker, veterans are a marginalized demographic as well.

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that veterans are marginalized people,” she said. “When they come back from deployments, they have trouble finding work, finding schooling opportunities and being mainstreamed back into civilian life,” she added. “Those American flags … were to support and show gratitude and solidarity for the marginalized group of veterans.”

Update 15NOV2016: Following this article’s publishing, Brown University Director of News and Editorial Development Brian E. Clark released the following statement on behalf of the university:

“We are investigating the accounts of vandalism to American flags set out on Brown’s College Green to celebrate Veterans Day. Removing American flags set up for a Veterans Day ceremony is in direct opposition to Brown’s values. Every year members of our campus community come together to honor our veterans and their commitment to serving our country. The flags were planted a day in advance as part of an event held on Veterans Day, where student veterans and ROTC undergraduates joined students, faculty and staff from across campus for a Veterans Day procession and ceremony. According to some accounts we have received, members of our community diligently worked to restore the removed flags, some of which had been removed and left nearby. Other flags were removed by the organizers of the event and replaced the morning of the Veterans Day ceremony. These incidents are under investigation, as any destruction of property is subject to disciplinary review.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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