ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KTVI) — Video of a person picking up U.S. flags commemorating 9/11 on Washington University’s campus and putting them in what looks like a trash bag is making its rounds on social media.
According to the student newspaper, the person in the video, Fadel Alkinali, serves as the chairman of the school’s student senate finance committee.
He told the Student Life newspaper that he is critiquing the military interventions and Islamophobia that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Any memorial of 9/11 that does not contend with these facts is not only incomplete,” he said, “but it also amplifies pro-imperialist sentiment and actively disrespects those who have died because of the American invasion.”
Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in which hijacked planes killed nearly 3,000 people in the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil. The attacks prompted the war in Afghanistan — now dubbed the “forever war” — launched Oct. 7, 2001.
The Washington University College Republicans, who placed nearly 3,000 flags at Mudd Field to commemorate the 9/11 attacks, now want the school to take action over the flag removal.
The school released a statement saying it is disappointed to hear about the 9/11 disruption and condemns Alkilani’s actions, but no disciplinary measures have been taken.
Ben Wagoner is one of the now millions of people who have seen the video.
“In general, it’s not great to get riled up over incidents like this, of one person. I’m happy to see that it hasn’t become a major issue on campus so far,” said Wagoner.
Though he added, “There are respectful ways to voice one’s discontent with American foreign policy since then and there are disrespectful ways to do it, and I think removing flags on 9/11 for a memorial intended to honor the victims of 9/11 is definitely a disrespectful way to do it.”
Grace Halupnick also described Alkilani’s actions as “disrespectful.”
“I didn’t see it until this morning, but my roommate showed me,” she said. “I was kind of shocked because I thought the flags were like a nice touch, so I didn’t really know why they did that.”
KTVI reached out to Akilani for comment but has not heard back.
Washington University’s full statement read:
“We were disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field. We condemn the interference with the expression of support by the College Republicans for the victims of the national tragedy that took place 20 years ago today. The actions surrounding this incident were not on behalf of the university or a university-sponsored organization. We value freedom of expression in all forms and will work to ensure that all students are able to express their points of view through appropriate channels without disrupting the rights of others to show support for causes they care about. This is a critical component of our core values and we are committed to facilitating free speech on our campus.”
The anniversary was observed two weeks after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is now ruled by the same Taliban militant group that gave safe haven to the 9/11 plotters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.