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University News

Students tear up flags for Veterans Day ceremony

Students hold sit-in to protect flags from getting thrown out, others take to social media to protest

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 14, 2016

Thursday, students damaged flags lining the Veterans Day Ceremony procession path around campus.

Updated Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. 

American flags placed on the Main Green Thursday were torn, pulled out of the ground and thrown away.  The flags were set up to line walking pathways in preparation for the annual Veterans Day ceremony sponsored by the Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs.

When Nicholas Strada ’18 came out of class Thursday, he said he was confronted with a flag dangling on a snapped stick. “It would’ve really bothered me to see that done to the flag any day, but just because it was Veterans Day and there was a ceremony, it was a little extra disturbing,” he said. To Strada, the flags represented veterans and “the freedoms that everyone enjoys.”

Students have shown a divided response to what happened to the flags. Leah Zavalick ’17 organized a sit-in on the Main Green to repair and protect the flags while veterans were in class. But others felt that the actions were justified, and much of the division and debate took place on social media over the weekend.

On the Brown Bears Admirers Facebook page, a platform that allows students to express anonymous admiration, one student wrote, “I’d like to appreciate everyone who has been removing the flags from the Main Green.” The post continued, “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.”

To student veteran Jonathan Hagedorn ’19, the flag is a symbol of why those in the military fought. “It’s just a difference of how you see the flag because for some people, it’s this sign of oppression and racial dominance and bigotry and imperialism. And it’s pretty much a flag of evil. And if I thought that way about the flag, I’d be stomping on it too,” he said, “At the same time, it’s painful for us.”

Strada’s trouble with the defaced American flags led him to upload a video on Facebook accompanied by a paragraph denouncing the vandalization. The video has since garnered upwards of 17,000 views. “There’s been a tremendous outpouring of support and positivity,” he said.

To gather participants for her demonstration, Zavalick posted in her class group on Facebook. The post drew “hateful comments and disrespect,” including things such as “How can you support something as stupid as the American flag?” she said.

One comment that resonated with Katie Hammaker ’19 read: “If only these people put this much energy into protecting marginalized people as they (did) into protecting these flags.”

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that veterans are marginalized people,” Hammaker 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.”

“The reactions are polarizing. … It’s really hard to bridge that gap,” Hagedorn said. “For us who see it as a good thing, we also need to remember that some people do terrible things while holding the flag,” he added.

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  1. Vandalizing the flags shows an unfortunate inability for multi-layered thinking about what they represent and what their purpose was on Friday – which was not only to honor veterans as a whole but specific members of our community. I am ashamed that our campus continues to have a problem civilly and rationally expressing opposing opinions. We are becoming an echo-chamber and the liberal caricature that FOX news thinks we are.

  2. Great Job Brown University–the school that fueled the anti-PC backlash and the Bernie or Bust campaigns that helped elect Donald Trump.

  3. Christopher M. says:

    As a Veteran and 2004 graduate of Brown (Sci M), I’m glad that I and my fellow veterans were able to defend your right to disrespect us. I would do so again in a second – freedom of speech is important.

    However, freedom to vandalize is nowhere in the Constitution. Furthermore, your assertion that the flag gives you feelings of “overwhelming nausea” means I should expect to see you climbing flagpoles around town and tearing up those flags, too? Or are you just going to do the ones you can while not getting caught? That makes you a lazy, cowardly vandal, not one who stands on principles.

  4. John H. Gleason says:

    Brown does not look good.

  5. A bunch of whiny spoiled thugs. Their so called parents failed in raising them.

  6. Boxhawk ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ says:

    Who is going to hire these idiots? Oh wait, the government will.

    • “Who is going to hire these idiots? Oh wait, the government will.”
      Yeah, because people who do this to the national colors do so well and are so numerous in government service. Give me a break.

  7. Love Trumps Hate, Really?
    Then where is the love for thy country and respect for the men and women that put their lives on the line to protect our freedom of speech?
    They demand respect but are unwilling to show it to others who conflict with their ideology.
    They call for diversity, but yet they can’t accept others who don’t believe as they do.
    They rant about inclusiveness, but yet they don’t want to include anyone they disagree with. Too me it sounds like they are Trumpeting Hate and Loving it.

  8. Jawaralal_Schwartz says:

    Lawful demonstrations are fine. Stupid and embarrassing ones are ill advised. Appearing to support the far leftists who were included in a somewhat broader Hillary coalition is not cool or politically wise in any respect. [And no, you ain’t measuring up to what your grandma may have done protesting the Vietnam War or fighting for civil rights.] Even coddled elitists, a few of whom have been known to go to Brown, should not do this. They should attempt to do what can be done to support our country. That does not require supporting the president-elect, but remember: it is the only country you have. And soon, Trump will be the only president you got.

  9. Hughlon Thornbury says:

    Don’t want police on a campus, no problem. Don’t call them when someone is actively shooting up the place or your stuff is stolen. Put your name in the no response database at the local and/or campus PD so they’ll know not to respond when you’re getting a beat down on campus.

    Don’t want military veterans on campus, do up one of those idiotic petitions to stop the school from accepting any money from any alumnus who is a veteran, to demand the school stop accepting veteran applications and any federal money that goes with them. Petition for the school to cut all ties with the Department of Defense, no research grants, no contracts with the DoD. Cut off all military money or equipment or considerations the school has been accepting.

    True believers are true practitioners. Until you are a true practitioner, you’re just a self-aggrandizing crybaby poser who doesn’t take what you say seriously. It’s a wussy thing to pull up tiny flags and tear them up, but going the distance, sit-ins at the president’s office, chaining yourself to the doors of the admin building, going cold turkey on no police and no DoD money? You’ll never do it. Cowards. You don’t deserve to call yourselves protestors.

  10. The era of the cry-bully is quickly coming to an end. And not a moment too soon. No more therapy puppies and safe spaces. Time to deal with the real world, my dear little snowflakes.

  11. Jeez…as a loyal alumn, where do I send my check to support this institution? And you wonder why people voted for Trump…

  12. That my friends, is how we lose an election that everyone thought was impossible to lose.

  13. Man, what a hate filled group of troglodytes you have going to Brown. How embarrassing for older alum to be associated with it. If I had a college age student, I would be investigating very carefully the activities taking place on the campus before I would allow my child to attend.

    • Funny you should say that, that’s exactly what I did. Not getting in to Brown was probably the best thing that could happen to my daughter. It hurt, but she realizes that she is in a better place.

  14. Someone posted then deleted this reply ; “See folks? There IS a silver lining to every sad story. If your child is
    not smart enough to go to Brown, you can at least claim moral
    That would be true if smarts was all it took to go to brown, I am not sure anyone believes that now. Plus, being happy that my child is in the right place is not a claim of moral superiority just as being glad she is not in the wrong place is a not claim of moral superiority.
    That claim of moral superiority is probably more a claim made by students at Brown, not other places.

  15. “….. and all I see is a symbol of the oppressing white nationalism that has jeopardized myself and so many others at Brown and abroad.”
    Does anyone else find this weird coming from a person who will, more than likely, end up working either in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street?

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