Vandals Destroy 9/11 Memorial on College Campus: 'If You Try to Destroy It, We Will Rebuild It'
Hours after a student group placed nearly 3,000 American flags around Occidental College in remembrance of the 9/11 attack victims, the display was "crushed" and "snapped" by vandals, the school reported.
On Saturday, the Occidental College Republican Club was joined by 20 or 30 students Saturday evening, placing 2,997 miniature American flags around the Los Angeles campus, one flag for every victim who lost their life in the attacks on the twin towers 15 years ago.
By midnight, they discovered the display ruined, despite the school giving the group explicit permission to put up the display, according to a Facebook post.
"Vandals crushed, snapped, and threw in the garbage every single flag," the Republican Club wrote. "Not one was left in the ground. Not only did they destroy the memorial, they put posters and flyers up that shamed the victims of 9/11."
According to the post, about 15 members banned together that night to reinstall the memorial.
They awoke the next morning to the display, once again destroyed.
"We thought people would have a little decency and respect the memorial. Not necessarily as an American flag, but as a way to remember the people that did die," Republican Club Vice President Max Woods told InsideEdition.com. "There's no political message [but] they took it and politicized it."
Woods said the display was for the students who had family members who perished in the attacks, and it did not appear other students were disgruntled while they had originally set up the flags.
He said they once again fixed the installation and took turns watching over it until the Republican Club ultimately took it down at about 10 p.m. Sunday.
Another student organization has since come out in support of the vandals.
In a statement on Facebook, the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equality, or CODE, responded: "For us, this flag is a symbol of institutionalized violence (genocide, rape, slavery, colonialism, etc.) against people of color, domestically as well as globally.
The statement went on: "This is not to say that the American flag is inherently comparable to the violence that has occurred under its silhouette, but to state that it is an ineffective memorial for what has happened to the people of the world in the past fifteen years."
In the comments the group clarified: "CODE supports the students that carried out this action."
Occidental's acting dean of students, Erica O'Neal Howard, has since issued a statement to its students: "The right and freedom to debate complex, contentious issues and disagree with each other is fundamental to what we do at Oxy. At the same time, we may not express ourselves in ways that prevent others from engaging in protected speech."
Occidental College has since told InsideEdition.com they are continuing their investigation into the vandalism and currently do not have any solid leads. It is unclear what consequences the vandals will face when they are identified.
Despite the controversy, Woods, the Republican Club VP, is still deeming the display a success.
"The whole reason we did it is to remember the victims who died," Woods said. "I got a lot of positive feedback. Even if [the flags] were broken, it was still a success."