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September 12, 2013

Morning Read: Protesters Rip Up 9/11 Memorial Flags at Middlebury College


Middlebury College students marked the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks yesterday with a display of 2,977 miniature American flags in front of Mead Chapel. The memorial, organized by the school's College Republicans and College Democrats groups, has happened every 9/11 for nearly 10 years, according to the Middlebury Campus.

This year, though, things went awry.

The Campus reported that five people ripped the flags out of the ground and tossed them into trash bags because they were planted on sacred Abenaki ground.

Ben Kinney ’15, president of the College Republicans, spent two hours putting the flags outside of Mead Chapel on Tuesday night, and happened to be walking up the hill towards the chapel when he saw four females and one male stuffing the miniature flags into black trash bags....

Kinney said the protestors told him they were “confiscating” the flags in protest of “America’s imperialism.”

The MiddBeat blog has a statement from Anna Shireman-Grabowski, a member of the class of 2015.5, who says she was the only Midd student among the protesters. It reads, in part:

While the American flags on the Middlebury hillside symbolize to some the loss of innocent lives in New York, to others they represent centuries of bloody conquest and mass murder. As a settler on stolen land, I do not have the luxury of grieving without an eye to power.

Shireman-Grabowski goes on to describe the flags "piercing the ground" of an indigenous burial site and admitting her own insecurity about the protest. The statement is really worth reading in full. And check out the full report from the Campus, too, for more eyewitness detail.

Not too many college activists make a point of standing up for the Abenaki people, so good on Shireman-Grabowski there. But jeezum, the optics on this one are not good. Remember: Tragedy is not a one-upmanship contest! Social justice is not the Olympics! 

In other news from yesterday, the 9/11 anniversary was used to sell smartphones, make bedroom-worthy basketball posters and sell newspaper subscriptions. We may never forget the events of 9/11, but we seem to be forgetting common sense on the same date.

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