Student faces backlash after pulling 3,000 flags off 9/11 memorial in protest

Student faces backlash after pulling 3,000 flags off 9/11 memorial in protest
The campus Republicans have called for the student’s expulsion

A student at Washington University is facing potential expulsion after he removed nearly 3,000 flags from the campus’ 9/11 memorial.

Fadel Alkilani, who serves on the school’s student government, was recorded by a classmate removing the flags and placing them in a trash bag. The flags were part of the school’s memorial commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Mr Alkilani said he planned to leave the flags at Mudd Field, the site of the memorial, in the trash bag as a way of “explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years”.

According to the Kansas City Star, the student said his protest was fueled in part by a lack of recognition for the Islamophobia that occurred in the US shortly after 9/11 and because the memorial did not acknowledge the more than 200,000 civilians who were killed as a direct result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 9/11 memorial was erected by the college’s Republican student group.

The school is investigating the incident. The campus Republicans have asked for Mr Alkilani to be expelled from the university.

The university’s chancellor, Andrew Martin, issued a statement saying Mr Alkilani’s act was a “reprehensible” “affront” to many people and to the ideals of the college.

Mr Martin did not include Mr Alkilani’s name in the statement, but did say that “the student involved has access to campus resources that are regularly available to students as he navigates the consequences of his actions, both on campus and beyond.”

The chancellor said the flag memorial was an act of free speech by the campus Republicans, and that while Mr Alkilani has the right to his own free speech, he also must respect others’ rights as well.

“Students have the right to express their viewpoints, but they also have the obligation to respect others’ expressions,” Mr Martin said.

The chancellor does not make clear what punishments Mr Alkilani will face as a result of removing the flags.

One of the campus Republicans, Nathaniel Hope, captured the video of Mr Alkilani removing the flags and notified the police. He told a local radio station, KMOX, that the flags were confiscated by law enforcement and returned to the college Republicans.

“These flags were not put in place for any political reason,” Mr Hope said. “They were for the lives lost. For anyone, I don’t care if you’re right-leaning, left-leaning, to remove those flags before Sept. 12 is inappropriate.”

The university’s student union issued a statement distancing itself from Mr Alkilani’s actions, but also condemned the hate he has received for his protest.

“We also unequivocally condemn the Islamophobic rhetoric and slurs that have been used against him and other Muslim students on campus. It is never right for students to be threatened, doxxed, targeted with hate speech, or expelled because of political expression. Free speech and political protest are central tenets of higher education, and calls to attack and persecute activists attack the foundation of a free democracy,” the statement, which was posted to Instagram, said.

The student union said it stands with “all students on campus who have experienced hate as a result of the increased Islamophobia and anti-Muslim violence in the years since the attacks, and reject all forms of violence and discrimination”.

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