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Rutgers University Restores Defaced American Flag After It Was Placed In A Museum

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Neetu Chandak Education and Politics Reporter

Rutgers University retracted an earlier decision to store a defaced American flag in a museum Wednesday, the same flag that received outrage at the University of Kansas.

The flag, “Untitled (Flag 2),” is part of a series called Pledges of Allegiance, by Creative Time, an organization that engages audiences with thought-provoking art. It shows America contoured and divided in black, with a message against the Trump administration’s decisions surrounding “imprisonment of immigrant children at the border,” as well as withdrawals from the Kyoto Protocol and United Nation’s Human Rights Council, according to Creative Time’s website.

Josephine Meckseper's "Untitled (Flag 2)" is the final flag featured in "Pledges of Allegiance," a nationwide public art…

Posted by Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University on Friday, July 6, 2018

Rutgers President Robert Barchi and Chancellor Debasish Dutta called Zimmerli Art Museum director Thomas Sokolowski to take the flag inside the museum after watching controversy unfold at Kansas for flying the same one, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). (RELATED:University Of Kansas Flies Defaced Flag In The Name Of Art)

Sokolowski agreed with the request on July 17, claiming the museum received “death threats,” according to the FIRE report. A Vox report also said the university received threats on Facebook. The Daily Caller News Foundation contacted Zimmerli and the Rutgers media department to verify this information, but received no comment in time for publication.

Kansas removed the flag and placed it in an art museum on July 11 after several students, community members, Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach demanded it be taken down. (RELATED: University Of Kansas Removed Defaced Flag From Public, Placed It In Museum Instead)

Sokolowski said the university was seeking to mimic Kansas’s solution to stopping the backlash, FIRE reported. Zimmerli worker Bonnie Wilson told FIRE she was disappointed with the decision to remove the flag, but now feels proud about the museum after the flag was restored.

The university did not provide a reason for restoring the flag. Wilson speculated Rutgers might have discussed the matter with legal professionals.

“I am under the impression that Rutgers discussed the matter with legal counsel,” Wilson said. “After confirming it was legal to display the flag outside, they decided it would be the right thing to do.”

FIRE, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote a letter on July 16 to University of Kansas’s Chancellor Douglas Girod to remind him that desecration of the American flag was constitutionally protected. The civil rights groups asked the chancellor to respond to the letter by July 30. (RELATED: Civil Liberty Groups Call On University Of Kansas To Restore Defaced American Flag)

“As Chancellor, it is ultimately your obligation to ensure that the expressive rights of those on your campus are not abridged, compromised, or violated, even and especially when political pressure demands otherwise,” the letter stated.

“The University of Kansas would do well to follow the lead of Rutgers by moving the exhibit back to its intended location,” FIRE Senior Program Officer Adam Steinbaugh told TheDCNF.

The University of Kansas has not responded to the letter, according to Steinbaugh.

“Untitled (Flag 2)” is the last installation of a campaign called Pledges of Allegiance, a campaign that claims to “inspire a sense of community among cultural institutions and begin articulating the urgent response our political moment demands,” according to Creative Time’s website.

Zimmerli installed “Untitled (Flag 2)” on July 3, according to its official Twitter account.

The campaign started on Flag Day in 2017 and is set to end on July 30.

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