Vandalism of 9/11 Memorial at Occidental College Sparks Debate

A 9/11 memorial at Eagle Rock's Occidental College, featuring 2,997 American flags, was vandalized on the 15th Anniversary of the U.S. terrorist attack. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Occidental College Republican Club noticed the destruction hours after the group had placed the tiny American flags around the main quad. Hundreds of flags were found smashed and thrown in the trash and members of the club witnessed several students destroying the flags from a distance.

“Any time we’ve really tried to talk to them they run away,” Vice President of the Occidental College Republican Club Max Woods told NBC4. “A lot of us, we don't know them personally, but we do know that it's the same set of students doing it.”

The Occidental College Republication Club worked well into the early hours of 9/11 to rebuild the damage done to the memorial.

“We ask that all students respect the memorial for the remainder of its time in the quad. If you try to destroy it, we will rebuild it,” the group noted in part of a larger Facebook post.

Many signs were also posted around campus showing an image of the World Trade Center towers with the message, “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.” According to a Facebook post by the Coalition @ Oxy for Diversity and Equity these signs were meant to "broaden" the memorial and to "provide more information and more context in order to center the actual lives and individuals affected by 9/11."

The incident has sparked a fiery discussion at Occidental College, especially on social media.

For instance, members of the Occidental Students United Against Gentrification shared the post from Coalition @ Oxy for Diversity and Equity critiquing the memorial, adding: “We have no tolerance for stolen land, colonizers, oppression, genocides, xenophobia, and/or erasure of culture/people (aka US nationalism).”

According to The LA Times, Occidental College released a statement to students and faculty asking for any information identifying the perpetrators and noting that when the culprits are found, they will receive disciplinary action.

Acting Dean of Students Erica O’Neal noted in the statement: “The right and freedom to debate complex, contentious issues and disagree with each other is fundamental to what we do at Oxy ... Vandalism or other acts that substantially interfere with the rights of others to engage in protected speech violate the College’s Student Code of Conduct and the spirit of this institution. Let us work together to find ways to express ourselves and build a community founded on respect.”