A student leader in Missouri is making national headlines after allegedly tossing thousands of American flags planted
What he did: Fadel Alkilani, who attends Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), was filmed collecting the flags planted at the school’s Mudd Field on Saturday morning. The video shows him carrying them in multiple plastic bags before walking away in an unknown direction.
- A total of 2,977 flags were put on display Friday night to represent the number of people who were killed in the terrorist attack. They were placed by the university’s College Republicans, whose member Nathaniel Hope caught Alkilani’s actions on camera.
- In the video, Hope approaches Alkilani and is heard asking, “What’s up?” To this, the latter replies, “Who are you?” before taking off.
- Hope said Alkilani had “no remorse” for his actions. “He [Alkilani] said that it [flag display] was in violation of school rules. He was also saying profanity,” Hope told Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative youth organization. The group said they also reached out to Alkilani, who reportedly denied wrongdoing and told them to “go away.”
Community reactions: Alkilani serves as vice president of finance for the student union, according to Student Life, the university’s student newspaper. His actions quickly caused an uproar within the local academic community and on social media.
- College Republicans are leading calls for his expulsion. “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,” junior Nick Rodriguez, who chairs the group, told Student Life.
- University officials also condemned Alkilani’s actions. However, they have not stated whether the student leader would face disciplinary measures. “We were disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field. We condemn 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,” Executive Director Susan McGinn said in a statement, according to the New York Post.
- McGinn said the university values freedom of expression “in all forms.” “[We] will 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,” she added.
What he’s saying: In the wake of the backlash, Alkilani released a statement explaining his actions and slamming his critics’ words as “misinformation.” He claimed that he was not trying to throw the flags away — instead, he was “relocating” them to protest against Islamophobia.
- “I 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,” Alkilani wrote.
- He continued: “I did not deface, destroy, damage, nor steal any flags, nor did I interfere with any registered event time. I assert that I did not violate any University Code of Conduct policy, though the conduct process is undergoing.”
- Alkilani also alleged that he was verbally and physically harassed by “numerous” students and officers from the Washington University Police Department (WUPD). He said he plans to report them through the official channels.
Read Alkilani’s full statement here.