Protesters at Middlebury College in Vermont uprooted 2,977 flags that were part of a 9/11 memorial display on Wednesday.
The flags symbolize each of the 2,977 people who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. The College Republicans and Democrats have jointly planted the flags in a field on campus every year for the last decade.
But this year, Ben Kinney — president of the College Republicans — happened to be walking by the display as 5 protesters finished removing the last of the flags and placing them in trash bags.
“At first, I thought 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,” said Kinney in a statement to The Middlebury Campus.
The protesters — at least one of whom was a student — explained that they were “confiscating” the flags in order to take a stand against U.S. imperialism.
They also claimed the area was a Native American burial ground, and that planting flags there was disrespectful.
But Kinney said he had received approval from the college to place the flags.
The Young America’s Foundation, which sponsors the “9/11: Never Forget Project,” denounced the five students who tampered with the memorial.
“What they did was neither noble nor righteous; it was irrational and disrespectful,” wrote YAF spokesperson Hillary Cherry in a statement. “Each of them should apologize for dismantling a beautiful display honoring American heroes.”
Two of the protesters were identified after admitting responsibility. One is Amanda Lickers, a Native American woman who said the memorial desecrated tribal land.
“Yesterday I said no to settler occupation,” she wrote in a statement. “I took those flags. It is a small reclamation and modest act of resistance.”
The other confessor was a student, Anna Shireman-Grabowski.
“My intention was not to cause pain but to visibilize the necessity of honoring all human life and to help a friend heal from the violence of genocide that she carries with her on a daily basis as an indigenous person,” she wrote in a statement. “While the American flags on the Middlebury hillside symbolize to some the loss of innocent lives in New York, to others they represent centuries of bloody conquest and mass murder. As a settler on stolen land, I do not have the luxury of grieving without an eye to power. Three thousand flags is a lot, but the campus is not big enough to hold a marker for every life sacrificed in the history of American conquest and colonialism.”
The college condemned the act of vandalism in a statement to The Daily Caller.