An estimated 300 veterans, families, and protestors gathered by the Hampshire College entrance on West St. this past Sunday to protest the college’s decision to stop flying the American flag on campus.
On Nov. 18, the president of Hampshire College, Jonathan Lash, made a statement to the community explaining that Hampshire College first made the decision a couple weeks ago to fly the flag at half-staff to allow the campus community to express “grief over the violent deaths being suffered in this country and globally” and to also facilitate more diverse dialogue about the flag as a symbol.
Then, on the Veteran’s Day following the presidential election, a student took down and burned one of the flags on campus. This incident, along with some of the campus communities’ discontent and hurt over the flag being raised at half-staff, called for the president to decide not to fly any flags on campus for now.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 754 organized this peaceful rally in response to protest the college’s decision.
“Regardless of what happens, the flag deserves some respect,” said Shutesbury resident Greg Steve, who attended the event with his daughter and wife, carrying three military burial flags of their family members.
The event started at 1 p.m. and continued on until about 2:30 p.m. The rally was centered around a stage setup across from the Hampshire College entrance sign, but spilled across the street. Speakers took turns sharing anecdotes and poetry of war and grief, accompanied by repeated cries to raise the flag.
Many of the protestors were veterans and family members who served or had family members serve in the military.
Speakers at the event included Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan, State Commander of the VFW Massachusetts Brian Martin, retired Sergeant Micah Welintukonis, Massachusetts State Representative John Velis of the 4th Hampden district, Springfield City Councilor at Large Kateri Walsh, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
The crowd chanted slogans such as “raise our flag” and “God bless America” as they waved their flags around in unison.
The rally was civil except for a Donald Trump supporter that was led off site, and a Hampshire college student who responded to the protest by making obscene gestures when the protesters attempted to take a group picture.
SOURCE: Christina Yacono
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian