Student Removes U.S. Flags Honoring 9/11 Victims As Protest, College Calls it 'Reprehensible'

A Washington University student removed nearly 3,000 flags Saturday from a campus display created to honor the deceased in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Fadel Alkilani, a member of the school's student government, was recorded by a classmate placing the flags into trash bags. Alkilani had intended to leave the bags at Mudd Field, where the display was erected, but was interrupted when the fellow student began recording.

After the video was shared to social media, Alkilani said in a statement that he wasn't going to get rid of the flags, but instead, leave them on the field along with information "explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years."

In the statement, Alkilani explained he moved the flags in protest because the display did not mention the Islamophobia in the U.S. or civilian casualties in the Middle East caused by the U.S. military. His actions received a visceral response from the school who launched an investigation into the matter, as well as the College Republicans group responsible for the 9/11 display.

According to the Kansas City Star, the College Republicans have asked that Alklani be expelled from the school.

Washington University Chancellor Andrew Martin said in a statement that removing the flags was "reprehensible" and was seen as "a personal affront by many, at WashU and beyond, and as an affront to the ideals of our institution."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

9/11 Flag Memorial
A pedestrian walks past a field of American flags, each representing every victim murdered in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 Ross D. Franklin/AP

Martin, who did not name Alkilani in his statement, said the university will follow its normal protocols while investigating and will ensure "that the student involved has access to campus resources that are regularly available to students as he navigates the consequences of his actions, both on campus and beyond. "

Martin said the flag display was an act of free speech, which he called a hallmark of the academic community.

"Students have the right to express their viewpoints, but they also have the obligation to respect others' expressions," Martin said.

Nathaniel Hope, a member of the College Republicans who took the video of Alkilani removing the flags, said the group place the flags on Mudd Field, which is on the western edge of campus, every year to remember Sept. 11.

Hope, a sophomore, told KMOX radio that he called the police, who confiscated the flags and returned them to the College Republicans, who reinstalled the flags on Saturday.

"These flags were not put in place for any political reason," Hope said. "They were for the lives lost. For anyone, I don't care if you're right-leaning, left-leaning, to remove those flags before Sept. 12 is inappropriate."