Saying that they “represent centuries of bloody conquest and mass murder,” a student at Middlebury College and at least one of her friends uprooted almost 3,000 American flags, a memorial to the deceased victims of the 9/11 attacks, and stuffed them in trash bags.
The flags were part of an annual 9/11 commemoration at the small Vermont liberal arts college of about 2,500 students. Each year, 2,977 miniature flags are planted in the ground in front of the college chapel. But this year, Anna Shireman-Grabowski, a junior at the college, decided that was 2,977 flags too many.
Shireman-Grabowski and four other protesters who were not Middlebury students uprooted the flags (see photo), in part because they said the land where they were planted was a sacred burial ground for the Native American Abenaki tribe.
“As a settler on stolen land, I do not have the luxury of grieving without an eye to power,” the student said in a blog post later on Wednesday. “Three thousand flags is a lot, but the campus is not big enough to hold a marker for every life sacrificed in the history of American conquest and colonialism.”
She also said she was trying to “help a friend heal from the violence of genocide that she carries with her on a daily basis as an indigenous person.”
That friend was Amanda Lickers, who is described on the Climate Connections web site as “a member of the Onondowa’ga Nation,” Native Americans also known as Seneca.
“Lands where our dead may lay must not be desecrated,” Lickers said in a statement explaining the protest. “In my community, we do not pierce the earth. It disturbs the spirits there, it is important for me to respect their presence.”
Lickers was on campus that day to lead a workshop on “Settler Responsibility and Decolonization.”
Needless to say, others on the Middlebury campus were not thrilled to see the flags uprooted.
College President Ron Liebowitz called the action a “selfish act” that “seriously undermined” the “degree of resect and civility” required for “debate and discussion of difficult issues.”
Earlier this year, Shireman-Grabowski led a protest at the Vermont Department of Public Service against a proposed natural gas pipeline extension.
SOURCES: Middlebury Campus, Daily Caller, VTDigger, Climate Connections