Telling Holyoke High's Story Since 1898

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Hampshire Flag Demonstration

A group of people gathered to protest Hampshire College's decision to remove the American flag from campus.

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After the students of Hampshire College lowered the American Flag to half-staff and then subsequently burned it when the election results were unfavorable, college president Jonathan Lash made the controversial decision to take down all of the flags at Hampshire College, feeling that it was a symbol of divisiveness.

On November 27, 2016 a protest was held at Hampshire College to put the American flag back up on school grounds.  Veterans and patriotic Americans from all over New England, came and stood in solidarity with the VFW to peacefully protest President Lash and the actions of the Hampshire College students.

I personally was in attendance of the protest, and frankly it was amazing.  Everyone there had an American flag on hand and waved it with pride, as we stood at the college entrance listening.  We listened to the many speakers who strongly disagreed with Lash’s decision and expressed their reasons for being there that day.  From combat veterans to Gold Star Mothers, these brave patriots reminded everyone that the flag is worth much more than a piece of cloth, and that it represents much more than any single individual.

One of the most notable speakers was Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who described what the flag meant to him and his family.  Sarno’s parents were Italian immigrants who came to the United States after enduring the Nazi occupation of Italy.  He explained that to them it was a symbol of relief, and after losing almost everything, they finally could find hope for their future.  He also commended the many veterans who gave up their own lives to protect their fellow citizens at home.

“The U.S. is the beacon of hope. Freedom and democracy. And that is because of each and every one of our veterans, and those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice.” – Mayor Domenic Sarno

Aside from the fantastic speeches given, the most important thing that I saw was how well the students from Hampshire College and the veterans at the rally talked to one another about their positions on the issue (you won’t hear about this on TV).  Men who were confined to a wheelchair made their way to the line of students who stood listening, and they just talked to them.  Nothing was burning, there was no violence, nor defacement of private or public property, it was just people talking to people; the old educating the young.

From this example of a meaningful conversation held between people of different backgrounds, hopefully there is a chance that these students learned that no one cares more about this country than the veterans.  In fact there is a group run specifically by veterans called the American Legion who set up programs such as Boys and Girls State, and the Student Trooper Program to educate this country’s youth on how to make change legally and become the next leader of our nation.  Ironically, these are the people who college students need to fulfill some of their own agendas in public service such as feeding the homeless, protecting civil rights, safeguarding our rivers from pollution…etc.  And they would be overjoyed to help, but when you burn the symbol that is near and dear to their hearts, you burn a bridge and you build a wall.

Interestingly enough, Jonathan Lash and the board of trustees finally decided to put the flag back up at full-staff after realizing their actions offended many of those who hold it in high regard.  This statement was released by Lash on Friday, December 2, 2016:

“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. College leadership, including the board of trustees, had decided on November 18 to lower the flag for a time to encourage uninhibited expression of deeply held viewpoints.

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. We understand that many who hold the flag as a powerful symbol of national ideals and their highest aspirations for the country—including members of our own community—felt hurt by our decisions, and that we deeply regret.americar2

The dialogue we have experienced so far is the first step of a process. Hampshire staff and faculty have led facilitated discussions, I have held multiple focus group sessions, and all of our students, faculty, and staff have been invited to contribute their opinions, questions, and perspectives about the U.S. flag. This is what free speech looks like. We believe in it, we will continue this work on campus, and we will look for ways to engage with our neighbors in the wider community. We raise the flag now as a symbol of that freedom, and in hopes for justice and fairness for all.

At Hampshire, we are committed to living up to these principles:

  • To insist on diversity, inclusion, and equity from our leaders and in our communities, and the right to think critically and to speak openly about the historical tensions that exist throughout the country
  • To constructively and peacefully resist those who are opposing these values
  • To actively and passionately work toward justice and positive change on our campus and in the world.

No less should be expected of any institution of higher learning.”

Jonathan Lash

President, Hampshire College

(credit to WWLP.com)

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Telling Holyoke High's Story Since 1898
Hampshire Flag Demonstration