A college student seen taking down a 9/11 memorial display at a Missouri university on Saturday is defending his actions amid backlash nationally and on campus.
Fadel Alkilani, a student leader at Washington University in St. Louis, can be seen grabbing small U.S. flags from an on-campus display and collecting them in what appear to be trash bags, video shared on social media Saturday shows.
The display, put up by the WashU College Republicans, featured 2,977 flags, representing the lives lost in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The video quickly gained attention and stirred anger among many, with some conservative groups calling Alkilani’s actions “despicable,” and the university’s College Republicans calling for him to be expelled, WashU’s student newspaper, Student Life, reported.
In a statement, Alkilani defended his actions, saying he was not stealing, damaging or destroying the flags, as he’s been accused.
“Currently, there is a massive harassment campaign propagated primarily by Washington University College Republicans, as well as the national Young American’s Foundation,” the statement said.
“I had no intention of removing the flags from the Mudd Field area, and my full protest did not have the chance to be actualized. My planned protest was to place the bags of flags on Mudd field, along with various statistics (including those below) explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years.”
Alkilani’s statement goes on to say that the 9/11 memorial display was “incomplete” because it did nothing to call attention to the victims of Islamophobia in the U.S., or the civilian casualties in the Middle East as a result of American military involvement.
“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,” the statement said.
The memorial did nothing to honor the victims of 9/11, he said, and worse, it used them for political purposes.
“Those who died during 9/11 deserve better than to be used as a political tool by those who seek to excuse American imperialism and Islamophobia,” Alkilani wrote.
Nick Rodriguez, WashU College Republicans president told Student Life that Alkilani “made a mockery” of one of America’s darkest days.
“What does it say to be a top American institution, and have yourself represented by a student leader who has no respect for property, campus traditions or the remembrance of thousands of lost lives,” Rodriguez told the outlet. “Today is about remembering the tragedy, 20 years ago to the day, not to make a political statement. Any reason he can conjure to remove the flags I find ludicrous.”
University officials have condemned Alkilani’s attempted protest but have not said if there will be any ramifications, academic or otherwise.
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