A student senator at Washington University in St. Louis was caught stealing flags from a 9/11 memorial display on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack that took 2,997 American lives.
Students at Washington University participated in the Young America’s Foundation’s (YAF) 9/11: Never Forget Project, which the organization describes as a display in which “2,997 flags are planted in the ground, one for each innocent murdered by radical Islamic terrorists.”
Nathaniel Hope, a Washington University College Republican filmed one student carrying several trash bags stuffed with American flags. The student, Fadel Alkilani, was found to be the chairman of the student senate finance committee, which allocates funds to student organizations on campus.
Hope told YAF that when he approached Alkilani, the student senator said “that it was in violation of school rules” to display the American flags. Hope claims that Alkilani was also cursing at him.
WOW: A student senator at @WUSTL was caught on video throwing away 2,977 American flags from conservative students’ 9/11: Never Forget Project memorial.
— YAF (@yaf) September 11, 2021
According to students participating in the vigil, Alkilani tried to destroy the display on Friday, September 10th, but was stopped by campus police. Alkilani was allegedly warned by police that he would be arrested if the display was disrupted again.
Alkilani told YAF in a statement that he “did not violate any university legal policy. Now go away.” On Twitter, he maintained that he stole the flags in an act of “protest against American imperialism and the 900,000 lives lost as a result of [the] post 9/11 war.”
In a lengthy Instagram story uncovered by The Post Millennial, Alkilani said that there was a “massive harassment campaign” on campus and that the flag display was not nuanced about the “Islamophobia” that took place on 9/11.
“Any memorial of 9/11 that does not contend with these facts is not only incomplete, but it also amplifies pro-imperialist sentiment and actively disrespects those who have died because of American Invasion,” Alkilani said. “Muslims such as I have faced fear, harassment, and Islamophobia from those who unjustly use the victims of 9/11 as a political cudgel … Those who died during 9/11 deserve better than to be used as a political tool by those who seek to excuse American imperialism and Islamophobia.”
Washington University initially released a statement stating that the school supports the values of free speech.
“The actions surrounding this incident were not on behalf of the university or a university-sponsored organization. We value freedom of expression in all forms and 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,” a university spokesperson said. “This is a critical component of our core values and we are committed to facilitating free speech on our campus.”
On Sunday, Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin issued a statement condemning the actions of Alkilani, though he maintained that the university values freedom of speech and expression.
“I want to make it very clear that, as an institution, we find the actions of this student to be reprehensible. The removal of the flags impeded the ability of individuals to commemorate the lives lost of 9/11 and to process the trauma of that day,” Martin said. “This act was seen as a personal affront by many, at WashU and beyond, and as an affront to the ideals of our institution.”
Martin added that the school is “taking appropriate steps to investigate this incident.”
YAF similarly reported that a 9/11 memorial was vandalized at Michigan State University as well.
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