Following a nationwide controversy, the American flag was returned on Dec. 2 to full staff on the main flagpole at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Victor Nunez Ortiz, commander of the Amherst VFW, organized a protest of the flag’s removal, which drew about 1,000 attendees, reports WWLP. Ortiz was involved in more than 15 discussions with staff and students before the decision was made to put the flag back up again.
Students at Hampshire, a private liberal arts college of 1,400, had lowered the flag to half-staff on Nov. 9. to protest “the toxic tone of the monthslong election,” said the college in a statement reported by The New York Times.
College officials allowed the flag to remain lowered while students and faculty members discussed “deeply held beliefs about what the flag represents to the members of our campus community,” the statement explained.
In defending the decision, Hampshire president Jonathan Lash said some students perceived the flag as “a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up in marginalized communities, never feeling safe.”
The controversy grew after the flag was burned sometime after nightfall on Nov. 10. The flag was immediately replaced, and the college’s board of trustees voted to continue to fly it at half-staff.
Within a week, the decision was made to take down the flag entirely, because, as Lash noted, “some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election. This, unequivocally, was not our intent.”
Reports of a campuswide ban on the flag were inaccurate, he insisted. The decision to keep the flag down earned condemnation from public officials, and created a storm of nationwide controversy.
The decision to fly the flag again was explained by Lash in a statement on Dec. 2, which reads in part:
This morning we raised the United States flag to full staff at Hampshire College after a two-week discussion period about what the flag means to members of the Hampshire community…. We are alarmed by the overt hate and threats, especially toward people in marginalized communities, which have escalated in recent weeks. We did not lower the flag to make a political statement. Nor did we intend to cause offense to veterans, military families, or others for whom the flag represents service and sacrifice. We acted solely to facilitate much-needed dialogue on our campus about how to dismantle the bigotry that is prevalent in our society."