Advertisement

Protesters take apart 9/11 tribute in Vermont

By David Charns, WPTZ Reporter, dcharns@hearst.com
Published On: Sep 13 2013 08:56:15 AM HST

Protesters took apart a memorial to the victims of Sept. 11 at Middlebury College, stuffing nearly 3,000 flags representing the number of lives lost into trash bags.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -

Protesters took apart a memorial dedicated to the victims of Sept. 11 at Middlebury College, stuffing nearly 3,000 flags representing the number of lives lost into trash bags.

The annual tribute features 2,977 flags representing the number of victims that day. It’s a yearly tradition by the school’s Democrat and Republican groups, but its location can change year to year. For the event's 12th anniversary, the flags were placed outside of Mead Memorial Chapel.

Junior Ben Kinney was one of the organizers. He said he was walking toward the memorial Wednesday afternoon when he saw five people taking flags out of the ground.

“At first I thought, because there was a rainstorm coming in, they were cleaning them up,” Kinney said.

But that’s not what they were doing. The group was putting the flags in trash bags, claiming the flags were on what was an Abenaki burial ground.

“To them the flags symbolized basically death and oppression and that they were protesting American imperialism and that they were going to confiscate the flags,” Kinney said. “They said that to me.”

The Abenaki are a Native American tribe of northeastern North America.

The protesters took out all the flags, but Kinney was able to get one of the trash bags back. In it were about one-third of the total markers.

Kinney and other students returned Wednesday night, putting what they had back together.

“The fact that it happened on 9/11, the fact that it's American flags, it's more than infringing on another student's right to express themselves,” Kinney said.

Middlebury student Anna Shireman-Grabowski said she helped take the flags out of the ground. She declined an on-camera interview, but said in a statement, “I would like to further clarify that this event did not occur on behalf of or in connection with the local Abenaki community or indigenous inhabitants of the area.”

Shireman-Grabowski said she was the only Middlebury student to take part in the protest, and that the other four are unaffiliated with the college.

Middlebury President Ron Liebowitz said the college will perform an investigation.

“I was deeply disturbed by the insensitivity of this act,” Liebowitz said in a statement. “Destruction of property and interfering with the rights of others to express themselves violates the standards of our community. The college has begun a disciplinary investigation of this incident. There is always something to learn from differences of opinion. In this case, the disrespectful methods of the protesters overshadowed anything that might have been learned from the convictions they claimed to promote. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

The college’s public safety department and Middlebury Police had no knowledge of any further investigation on their part as of Wednesday night.

Kinney said his friend had contacted the Abenaki People, who said they have no knowledge of an Abenaki connection with land at Middlebury College.

“If this is an Abenaki burial ground, maybe they do have a claim that we should do it somewhere else,” Kinney said. “But the way they went about it, I don't think is excusable in anyway.”

Kinney has since taken the memorial down. He said it will return in 2014.

Comments

The views expressed are not those of this site, this station or its affiliated companies. By posting your comments you agree to accept our terms of use.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertising
Advertising