Fadel Alkilani, the vice president of finance for the student union at Washington University, is facing backlash for throwing away 9/11 flags that were displayed on the lawn. The Washington University student was condemned by his peers after he was filmed throwing away flags – the Young America’s Foundation posted the now-viral video to Twitter which has since garnered over 330,000 views.
“A student senator at [Washington University in St. Louis] was caught on video throwing away 2,977 American flags from conservative students’ 9/11: Never Forget Project Memorial,” the Twitter post read. The Young America’s Foundation, which introduces students to conservatism through campus programs, concluded the caption by saying the student senator’s act was “despicable.”
In the video, Fadel Alkilani was stuffing the 2,977 commemorative flags into blue trash bags. When the filming began, Alkilani had already cleared the lawn of the 9/11 flags. The videographer confronted the Alkilani as he picked up the trash bags.
“Who are you?” the cameraman, who was later identified as Nathaniel Hope, asked in the video. The student senator looked at the camera before walking away with the blue bags filled with 9/11 flags.
Hope later explained that Fadel Alkilani showed “no remorse” before claiming the commemorative flags were a “violation of school rules.” Alkilani told the Young America’s Foundation that “I did not violate any university or legal policy. Now go away.”
Alkilani explained why he removed the flags, claiming he did it in “protest against American imperialism and the 900,000 lives lost as a result of post 9/11 war.” The student senator deleted that Twitter post, and later posted a statement on Instagram claiming that “Republicans [are] attacking me in the replies.”
He then continued to explain his actions, writing that “the misinformation that is currently circulating on YAF’s page states that I was ‘stealing’ the flags. This is due to a WashU College Republicans member, taking [a] video of me collecting flags in plastic bags. However, 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.”
He claimed that “my planned protest was to place the bags of flags on Mudd Field, along with various statistics explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years. On the sides of the bags, some writing may be visible, but the full statement was not outlined at the time of the video.”
Fadel Alkilani said that he “did not deface, destroy, damage, nor steal any flags, nor did I interfere with any registered event.” He also claimed that he did not violate “any University Code of Conduct policy.” He also admitted that he was “verbally and physically harassed by numerous WashU students and WUPD officers, whom I plan to report through official channels.”
He then continued his statement, listing statistics regarding the past 20 years since September 11th. The student senator was adamant that the incident has “garnered attention at a scale that I was not expecting, and my regret is that the information circulating consists primarily of a lie.”
Julie Flory, the university’s vice chancellor for marketing and communications, released an official statement through the school’s newspaper, Student Life. “We were disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field,” Flory said in the statement. “We condemn the interference with the expression of support by the College Republicans for the victims of the national tragedy that took place 20 years ago today.”
While it’s unclear what Washington University administrators will do to rectify the situation, WU College Republicans president Nick Rodriguez demanded Alkilani’s expulsion. Rodriguez said that “at minimum, I believe he should be removed from both [student union] and his [resident advisor] position, as 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.”
He continued, explaining on 9/11 that “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.”