A Washington University student senator is under investigation after a video showing him removing as many as 3,000 miniature flags from a 9/11 memorial by conservative students went viral on social media.
Fadel Alkilani, who serves as the chairman of the student senate finance committee at the St. Louis, Missouri, university was seen filling blue trash bags with the 2,977 flags that were used as part of the 9/11: Never Forget Project memorial, which was set up at the university's Mudd Field to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on its 20th anniversary.
The video, posted on Twitter by the Young Americans for Freedom account, show the videographer confronting Alkilani. "Who are you?" Alkilani asks the cameraman, identified as Nathaniel Hope, a member of the university's College Republicans.
Hope described Alkilani as showing "no remorse" before claiming the flags were a "violation of school rules."
"I did not violate any university or legal policy. Now go away," Alkilani told YAF.
Alkilani Says He Was Protesting Against Islamophobia
In a statement posted after the video went viral, Alkilani defended his actions,saying he was being targeted in a "massive harassment campaign" by the university's College Republicans and YAF. He added that he intended to place the trash bags on Mudd Field along with other statistics "explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years."
Alkilani further explained that he wanted to protest against 900,000 lives lost as a result of the Islamophobia and American military interventions that came after the 9/11 attacks.
"Any memorial of 9/11 that does not contend with these facts is not only incomplete, but it also amplifies pro-imperialist sentiment and actively disrespects those who have died because of American Invasion," Alkilani wrote in a statement Saturday night.
Washington University Condemns Alkilani's Actions, Launches Investigation
On Sunday, Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin released a lengthy statement condemning the student's actions as "reprehensible" and noted that the university was investigating the incident. However, he maintained that the university values freedom of speech and expression.
"I want to make it very clear that, as an institution, we find the actions of this student to be reprehensible," Martin said. "The removal of the flags impeded the ability of individuals to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 and to process the trauma of that day. This act was seen as a personal affront by many, at WashU and beyond, and as an affront to the ideals of our institution."
"The 9/11 commemoration on Mudd Field was not just a memorial, it was also an act of speech," he continued. "The free exchange of ideas is central to a vibrant university. It is a hallmark of our academic community, and it is imperative that everyone here is able to express their views in a respectful environment. Students have the right to express their viewpoints, but they also have the obligation to respect others' expressions."
"We are taking appropriate steps to investigate this incident and will follow our standard protocols as we do so," Martin added. "Such steps often take time. As we move forward, we will also ensure that the student involved has access to campus resources that are regularly available to students as he navigates the consequences of his actions, both on campus and beyond."