A 2,977 flag memorial was ripped out of the ground in front of Mead Memorial Chapel shortly before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11 by a group of five protestors claiming that the flags were on top of a sacred Abenaki burial site.
The flags — meant to commemorate each of the 2,977 lives taken in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — have been posted in the grass between Mead Chapel and the Davis Family Library annually in a joint effort between the College Republicans and Democrats for nearly 10 years.
Ben Kinney ’15, president of the College Republicans, spent two hours putting the flags outside of Mead Chapel on Tuesday night, and happened to be walking up the hill towards the chapel when he saw four females and one male stuffing the miniature flags into black trash bags.
“I got there just as they were taking the very last of them out of the ground and putting them in piles,” he said. “At first, I the group was comprised of College Democrats helping put the flags away before the rain rolled in, but then I realized what they were doing.”
Kinney said the protestors told him they were “confiscating” the flags in protest of “America’s imperialism.”
Julia Madden ’14, was walking back from Proctor when she saw the five people uprooting the flags.
“I was just getting out of class, but when I saw what they were doing I decided to say something,” she said. “They were quickly putting them into two big plastic trash bags. I’m mad at myself for not being more aggressive. I was just dumbfounded.”
There was no discussion. No compromise. We asked if we could put them somewhere else, but they wouldn’t listen.”
Sasha Schell ’15 also walked by the protest.
“I was thinking to myself ‘why are people cleaning them up now and why are they doing it in such a hurried and haphazard manner?’ I went up and asked them what they were doing. They said ‘this is an Indian burial ground and you can’t have anything penetrating the earth.’"
“It is really disrespectful to our community. It is disrespectful to the firefighters who went into the towers to save people. Most of all, it is disrespectful to anybody who lost somebody on that day,” he said. “It was completely out of line for anybody to come remove those flags. This is a travesty.”
Kinney, who said he received permission to erect the memorial from Associate Dean of Students for Student Activities & Orientation JJ Boggs, said he had never seen protests against the yearly memorial during his time at the College.
“You can’t say that one death is more legitimate to commemorate than another,” he said.
Additional Reporting by ZACH DRENNEN