EAGLE ROCK — Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch weighed in on this weekend’s destruction of a 9/11 campus memorial, calling it an “act of defilement that is deeply offensive to the memory of those who died on September 11th.”
Veitch’s remarks were released Tuesday night and appear to be his first public comments addressing the weekend vandalism, which has attracted nationwide attention. The controversy began after many of nearly 3,000 small U.S. flags that had been planted on the campus quad on Saturday were trashed or broken, according to the Occidental College Republican Club, which organized the memorial. The flags represented the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Some campus groups defended the destruction and opposed the use of the American flag as a symbol to the 9/11 victims. But Veitch, who was working in Lower Manhattan only a few blocks away when the one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, took issue with that view:
“This incident has been defended by some as an act of protected speech. It is not. It is an act of defilement that is deeply offensive to the memory of those who died on September 11th. And it violates the free speech of others, a principle we must hold dear as members of an educational community ….
Most of our students were quite young — between the ages of 3 and 7 — when those tragic events occurred. I recognize that there are many who do not share those memories, or perhaps even fully understand the significance of 9/11 for Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs. Some legitimately question why some lives are remembered more readily than others. I also recognize that the events of 9/11 and the U.S. response in Afghanistan and Iraq — indeed, U.S. foreign policy itself — has a history and a context that is controversial. For many the flag is a source of ambivalence and they seek the means to express the concerns it evokes ….
It is worth noting that the flag has been invoked in many other forms of protest throughout our history. Most recently, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick has chosen not to stand during the national anthem. But this political act does not interfere with the right of others to express their devotion to the flag. “
A college investigation into the vandalism continues.
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