A student senator at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri was filmed tearing out and throwing away nearly 3,000 American flags featured in a 9/11 memorial on campus, as reported by the New York Post.
The student, Fadel Alkilani, was captured on video Saturday as he tore the flags out of the ground and stuffed them into multiple large garbage bags. The student filming the incident, Nathaniel Hope, confronted Alkilani; Hope said that Alkilani falsely claimed that the memorial was “in violation of school rules,” and “was also saying profanity.” In the video posted to Twitter, Alkilani, who is wearing a face mask, stops for a few moments when he realizes that he is being filmed, then quickly walks away with the bags, calling Hope “weird” before leaving the scene.
The 2,977 flags were placed in the grass on the campus’s Mudd Field for the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in 2001, with each flag representing one of the victims of the attacks in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on that day. This has become a common tradition around the country every year since 2001, often organized by conservative student groups.
In a statement issued after the footage went viral, Alkilani doubled down on his actions while also changing course from his previous justification that the memorial was in violation of school policy. Alkilani claimed that the memorial “amplifies pro-imperialist sentiment and actively disrespects those who have died because of American invasion.”
“A memorial which uses U.S. flags is insidious,” Alkilani continued, “as it does not recognize those who have fallen, but uses a symbol that was on the shoulders of those who are responsible for the deaths of 900,000 people.” He said that such a memorial was “using” the victims of 9/11 “as a political tool by those who seek to excuse American imperialism and Islamophobia.”
Alkilani, who is the vice president of finance at Washington University’s Student Union, was condemned by the administration for his actions. A statement by Executive Director Susan McGinn said that they were “disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field,” and “condemned the interference with the expression of support by the College Republicans for the victims of the national tragedy that took place 20 years ago today.”
McGinn claimed that the university would “work to ensure that all students are able to express their points of view through appropriate channels, without disrupting the rights of others to show support for causes they care about.” There has not yet been any indication, however, that Alkilani will face any consequences for his actions.