ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A Student Senator at Washington University was caught dismantling a 9/11 memorial on the University’s campus on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in history.
As part of a 9/11: Never Forget Project, WashU’s College Republicans chapter placed 2,977 flags on Mudd Field this past weekend with each flag representing a life that was lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
WashU student Nathaniel Hope was on a morning walk through campus on Saturday when he saw Student Senator Fadel Alkilani hauling several trash bags filled with the American flags that were initially placed in the ground.
Hope, a member of WashU’s College Republicans chapter, notified other chapter members, campus police and then began videoing the student as he gathered the trash bags and walked away. According to Hope, the police confiscated the stolen flags from Alkilani and gave them back to the conservative group, who then proceeded to plant each flag once again.
WOW: A student senator at @WUSTL was caught on video throwing away 2,977 American flags from conservative students' 9/11: Never Forget Project memorial.
— YAF (@yaf) September 11, 2021
“I think that his action was inappropriate and thankfully the school agrees with me,” Hope told Fox News. “The fact is, that each and every one of those flags was for somebody who died in those terrorist attacks. Disturbing them for any sort of protest on that day was inappropriate.”
“As an American, I was speechless,” he later added.
According to students who participated in the commemorative event, this was Alkilani’s second attempt at dismantling the display. He initially tried on Friday night but was told to stop after University campus police were called. After being caught on Saturday, campus police warned him that he would be arrested if he attempted to destroy the display again.
After facing backlash on social media, Alkilani brushed off the initial criticism and defended his actions in a tweeted response to Hope’s video of him.
However, the fierce wave of criticism seemingly got the best of Alkilani in the end as he deleted his Twitter account in response to the amount of backlash he received.
Both WashU Chancellor Andrew D. Martin and the University released statements condemning the Student Senator’s actions. Martin called it “reprehensible” and said WashU is investigating the incident to determine the appropriate consequences for Alkilani. The full statement from the University is below:
“We were disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field. 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. The actions surrounding this incident were not on behalf of the university or a university-sponsored organization. We value freedom of expression in all forms and will work to ensure that all students are able to express their points of view through appropriate channels without disrupting the rights of others to show support for causes they care about. This is a critical component of our core values and we are committed to facilitating free speech on campus.”
It was also revealed that Akilani is Chairman of the Student Senate finance committee, whose primary duties include deciding appropriations for student organizations.
On Twitter, Alkilani said he stole the flags as part of a “protest against American imperialism and the 900,000 lives lost as a result of post 9/11 war.”
As Sept. 11 is a painful day of remembrance for thousands of American families, many are wondering what caused the student to carry out the extremely disrespectful gesture. A highschool classmate of Alkilani is wondering the same.
“I don’t remember him being political at all,” the source, who asked not to be named, said. “I was in school clubs with him and had multiple classes with him, too. I never remember him being political whatsoever.”
As the classmate never witnessed such controversial opinions from Alkilani before attending college, he suggested his drastic change of viewpoints could potentially be credited to indoctrination by the University.
Neither Washington University nor Chancellor Martin has issued an update on the University’s investigation and what consequences Alkilani may face as a result. With the situation garnering nationwide media attention since the video appeared on Saturday, it’s safe to expect an update on the University’s disciplinary decision in the coming weeks.