Politics & Government

‘This is what free speech looks like’: College restores American flag after burning

The actions around Hampshire College’s small campus concerning American flags drew national ire from veterans, conservative groups and even possibly Donald Trump.

But following the controversy, officials at the college decided to once again raise the American flag Friday morning, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The issue began when students at the college in Amherst, Massachusetts lowered the flag to half-staff following the election of Trump, which signifies a state of mourning. The college board decided to leave the flag where it was out of desire for “respectful dialogue, which spurred outrage from veterans groups and local community members. In response, the school said it would raise the flag to full-staff on Veterans Day on Nov. 11. But the flag was removed and burned by an unknown person overnight, prompting even more anger.

The school announced it would lower all flags on campus, a decision that apparently ended Friday.

Jonathan Lash, president of the college, said in a statement that officials were “alarmed by the overt hate and threats” and said they hadn’t lowered flags to make a “political statement.”

“The dialogue we have experienced so far is the first step of a process. Hampshire staff and faculty have led facilitated discussions, I have held multiple focus group sessions, and all of our students, faculty, and staff have been invited to contribute their opinions, questions, and perspectives about the U.S. flag,” Lash said. “This is what free speech looks like. We believe in it, we will continue this work on campus, and we will look for ways to engage with our neighbors in the wider community. We raise the flag now as a symbol of that freedom, and in hopes for justice and fairness for all.”

Lash also told the Boston Globe Thursday night that the school has received violent threats.

“I’ve received many e-mails, a lot of them extremely unpleasant,” Lash said. “Our phone lines have been clogged with people calling to express their anger. People can disagree with us, but we’ve also received very explicit threats.”

Trump tweeted this week about believing there should be consequences for burning the flag — which is protected free speech — but he has not commented on if it was in reaction to the events at Hampshire College.