Fadel Alkilani, student union vice president of finance at Washington University in St. Louis, removed nearly 3,000 flags commemorating the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The Young America’s Foundation placed the flags in the ground with University approval. Video footage from Saturday caught a man carrying trash bags filled with the flags after removing them from where they had been placed.
Alkilani, who describes himself as Palestinian, admitted removing the flags in social media posts he later deleted. In one, he attempted to assert that he intended to “protest against American imperialism and the 900,000 lives lost as a result of post 9/11 war.” He later took to Instagram to write a lengthy statement, saying that he “had no intention of removing the flags from the Mudd Field area, and my full protest did not have the chance to be actualized. My planned protest was to place the bags of flags on Mudd field, along with various statistics explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years.”
WOW: A student senator at @WUSTL was caught on video throwing away 2,977 American flags from conservative students' 9/11: Never Forget Project memorial.
— YAF (@yaf) September 11, 2021
The university in an initial statement on September 11 said it was “disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field,” adding “we condemn the interference.”
“I want to make it very clear that, as an institution, we find the actions of this student to be reprehensible,” Chancellor Andrew Martin wrote on Sunday to students and teachers. “The removal of the flags impeded the ability of individuals to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 and to process the trauma of that day. This act was seen as a personal affront by many, at WashU and beyond, and as an affront to the ideals of our institution.”
Martin confirmed that what happened is being investigated. College Republicans President Nick Rodriguez said Alkilani’s actions “made a mockery of one of the most somber days in American history” and called for his removal from the student union.
“What does it say to be a top American institution and have yourself represented by a student leader who has no respect for property, campus traditions or the remembrance of thousands of lost lives?” he asked.
“At minimum, I believe he should be removed from both SU and his [resident advisor] position, as what does it say to be a top American institution, and have yourself represented by a student leader who has no respect for property, campus traditions or the remembrance of thousands of lost lives,” Rodriguez wrote. “Today is about remembering the tragedy, 20 years ago to the day, not to make a political statement. Any reason he can conjure to remove the flags I find ludicrous.”
Junior Reagan Steirn was one of a group of people who had gathered with a large American flag on Mudd Field outside the Knight Center Saturday evening. “I’m livid,” she said, citing the number of University community members with direct ties to the events of 9/11. “With a leadership role, someone doing those actions and showing his disrespect will just allow other students on campus to do the same thing, when in this situation it’s just not okay to do that.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice