A 9/11 memorial on the Occidental College campus in Eagle Rock was vandalized early Sunday morning.
The Occidental College Conservatives Club had set up 2,997 small, U.S. flags in the Academic quad on Saturday for the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. "Every single flag" was later reported "crushed, snapped, and [thrown] in the garbage," according to the club's Facebook page.
Members of the club also found fliers early Sunday morning that they said "shamed" victims of 9/11: "R.I.P the 2,996 Americans who died in 9/11. R.I.P the 1,455,590 innocent Iraqis who died during the U.S. invasion for something they didn't do."
"I got a call from a friend around midnight notifying me of the vandalism," said Occidental College Conservatives Club vice president, Max Woods. "We put the flags back and were on watch but some people trashed the area again at around 3:30 AM. We chased them down and took down some names. People even drove over the flags with their bicycles."
The college authorities sent out an official letter to the students at 8:58 PM Sunday summarizing the events that had transpired as well as mentioning their policy on free speech on campus.
"Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment. The right and freedom to debate complex, contentious issues and disagree with each other is fundamental to what we do at Oxy. At the same time, we may not express ourselves in ways that prevent others from engaging in protected speech. As the Student Handbook states, 'Occidental College imposes on students, faculty members, administrators, and trustees an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression both on and off campus,'" it said.
Jim Tranquada, the director of communications and community relations, said that this was the "official stance" of the college and refused to give further information.
"For us, this flag is a symbol of institutionalized violence (genocide, rape, slavery, colonialism, etc.) against people of color, domestically as well as globally. Additionally, if the goal of the memorial is to commemorate the lives lost during 9/11, the singular nature of the American flag fails to account for the diversity of lives lost on that day," said the post.
"I have respect for both sides. I think the school misdirected the action and they should have asked the students before the memorial got placed [on campus]. I don't think the club was trying to demean anyone or take credit away from anyone. This whole thing is about everyone's rights to the First Amendment and if you truly believe that you should talk freely about it," said sophomore, Daniella Khersonsky.
The Eagle Rock campus was also in the news in last November when they occupied an administrative building, protesting against the handling of diversity issues.
Over half a dozen students were reluctant to speak to Annenberg Media, fearing social repercussions from the student community. "Last year, a lot of people that disagreed with certain protests got shut down immediately. I do know that a lot of them transferred and changed schools because of that. There was definitely some bullying involved," said Woods.
The Security Office of Occidental College refused to comment when asked about procedures that they usually undertake to handle such situations.
We will continue to update this story as more details come in.