Flag burned at Hampshire College campus

Saturday, November 19, 2016

AMHERST — Hampshire College has a robust history of protest since its founding in 1965, which continued overnight Nov. 9 with the burning of an American flag on campus on the eve of Veterans Day.

Administrators, who discovered the flag Veterans Day morning , replaced it in time for a campus celebration of veterans later in the day.

“We certainly think there’s much more productive, healthier ways of protesting” than destroying college property, said John Courtmanche, a spokesman for the college. “We’re obviously looking for constructive ways for people to voice their anger.”

The flag burning followed the day after the election gathering around the flagpole of about 150 students who were upset with Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. Students used the demonstration to call for removal of the flag, which they said is a symbol of “racism and oppression,” according to one student.

“Think about the groups who use the flag, from police officers to the U.S. Army,” said Daniel Vogel, 19, who said he had nothing to do with the flag’s destruction. “These are the forces on the ground that make oppression happen.”

Flying the flag has long been a point of contention at the school, Vogel said, but last week’s events were spurred by Trump’s win.

In response to the demonstration, students lowered the flag to half-mast. College administrators kept it lowered until Veterans Day, according to Courtmanche.

“This morning I have heard from a number of students, faculty, and staff who, like me, are struggling to understand the meaning and implications of last night's election results,” Jonathan Lash, college president, wrote in an email to students on Nov. 9.

“I feel both anguish and sadness,” he wrote. “I am particularly concerned about members of our community who felt themselves specifically targeted during a hateful campaign by repeated racist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and misogynistic statements. We saw a candidate mock people with disabilities and deal in anti-Semitic innuendo, heedless of the pain and harm he caused.”

Vogel said students were dissatisfied with the compromise, noting that a majority wanted the flag removed entirely.

“Hampshire College has always said it’s democratic, however if the clear majority prefers a flag not be there, that’s not democratic,” he said.

Vogel said though the election catalyzed last week’s events, students had already been organizing around the flag’s removal.

“To fly the flag at half-mast is a protest against the system, but it’s not a protest against how the system was created,” he said. “To get rid of the flag is to say we need to completely change things — we’ve had enough reform. Let’s make things actually happen.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.