Brown University investigating vandalism to American flags

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Brown University campus officials are investigating reports of vandalism to American flags set out around the college green for Veterans Day last Friday.

“The flags were planted a day in advance as part of an event held on Veterans Day, where student veterans and ROTC undergraduates joined students, faculty and staff” for a ceremony, according to a statement Tuesday from the university’s media relations office.

The ceremony had ROTC members carrying an American and a Rhode Island state flag down a path lined with small American flags prior to the ceremony. Some Brown community members had worked to restore removed or broken flags in time for the event

“Behind a trash can we just found a bundle of them,” Brown University student Tristan Hood told Eyewitness News. “Most of them has been snapped or torn at the fabric.”

Hood, an Air Force veteran who served two tours in Iraq, said students he encountered removing or damaging the flags on Thursday and Friday told him they were doing it to protest Veterans Day.

“It was a direct attack on veterans,” he said. “It wasn’t anything political.”

Comments supporting those who broke and tore the flags began popping up on a Brown University student-run Facebook page, but by Tuesday, the post had been taken down and replaced with another.

“We recently published a post expressing support for people who took down flags on Veterans Day. In principle, there was nothing wrong with this post,” the Facebook post read in part. It continued, “As a result, our page was brigaded by firebrands and we have received multiple toxic messages along these lines. That post has now been removed.”

The vandalism was captured on cell phone video by Brown student Nicholas Strada. He posted the video to Facebook and by Tuesday evening it had been viewed more than 33,000 times.

“I’m very Patriotic, that would bother me every day, but because it was Veterans Day, it was even more disturbing,” said Strada. He said people from across the country have been writing him messages to thank him, but he said he’s telling them all the same thing: “Thank a veteran.”

Meanwhile, Brown University said they are looking into the acts of vandalism.

“Removing American flags set up for a Veterans Day ceremony is in direct opposition to Brown’s values,” and any destruction of property is subject to disciplinary review under college rules, the office said.

Hood, who said he’s one of about a dozen veterans in the undergraduate student body at Brown, is hopeful more veterans attend the university and tell their fellow students what the American flag means to them.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come home under that flag. These are people who don’t go home to their families,” he said. “And the flag means that to me. But unfortunately some of the students at Brown don’t feel that way.”