Flags under fire: Pro-life display disposed of under suspicious circumstances
Vandals threw flags symbolizing aborted babies into trash cans Jan. 22, removing a pro-life display set to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
DePaul's Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter organized the 500 pink and blue flags memorial, symbolizing the United States' estimated daily abortion rate after Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. YAF obtained a permit for the display from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A group of executives from YAF erected the flags at 7 a.m., and when they came back at 5 p.m. to take them down, they were gone.
YAF chairman Kristopher Del Campo, who had the idea for the memorial, said that he was "shocked" and "a little bit mystified" upon the removal. He originally thought Facility Operations took the flags down, but after talking to a Public Safety guard who witnessed students taking them down at around 4:30 p.m., he learned it was not a mistake. The flags were shoved into trashcans around campus.
"Being the nation's largest Catholic institution, (the trashing) says that the mission of Catholicism is not really encrypted in the university's foundation," said Del Campo.
Del Campo met with Dean of Students Art Munin, who wanted to apologize on behalf of the university and told Del Campo that "they will not tolerate this," according to Del Campo.
"I am not satisfied with DePaul's answer," said Del Campo.
The flags cost YAF $500, money that the group received from a private donation.
Bob Wachowski, director of Public Safety, said he could not comment on ongoing investigations. According to Cynthia Lawson, DePaul vice president of public relations and communication, it is unclear how many people were involved in the flag removal, but the investigation should be able to determine the correct number.
Kate Edwards, a program officer of chapter services for YAF, wrote in an article on YAF's website that there was "video evidence of 3-4 females" removing the flags. Edwards later told Fox News Radio that "as many as 20 people" ripped up the flags and threw them away.
DePaul's Code of Student Responsibility states that "a student shall take no action that damages, or tends to damage, personal or private property not his or her own without the consent of the owner or person legally responsible for such property." Lawson said that if the individuals who took down the flags are identified, they would go through DePaul's judicial process.
"I believe a warning is not ... sufficient enough for this act," said Del Campo. "If it was a planned act, not an act of randomness, I think expulsion should be given to these students."
Del Campo also plans to contact the Chicago Police Department about the incident.
Del Campo said he wouldn't call the trashing a hate crime, but called it "the most blatant act of hate on DePaul's campus."
"What is ironic is that liberals are the biggest proponents of hate crimes yet they are often the ones who practice them the most," said Del Campo. "This is an act of intolerance by students who don't value the free exchange of ideas ... By the university not coming out and vigorously apologizing for what occurred and condemning what happened, they are creating an atmosphere of intolerance towards conservatives on campus."
Lawson, who said DePaul would allow a similar pro-choice display, said the actions to remove the flags from the memorial did not uphold DePaul's Vincentian values.
"What (this) says is that while DePaul affirms the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, even at the risk of controversy, DePaul also insists that each individual remember that the right of expression carries with it the equally important responsibility to exercise that right with a conscientious respect for human dignity," said Lawson.
DePaul has encountered free speech issues in the past. In 2011, the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) named DePaul as one of the 12 worst colleges for free speech in the country, following DePaul's rejection of a Students for Cannabis Policy Reform group in 2011 and charging students with harassment for a satirical "affirmative action bake sale" in 2006, among other incidents (DePaul would later drop the charges).
Del Campo said that he would like an outreach from Student Government Association and that he would like to see greater effort from the university to find the vandals.
"If you really want to find these students, put out pictures," said Del Campo. "Let other students see it and students can identify students."
Del Campo also asked whoever destroyed the display to come forward and confess, "or it's going to be a very long quarter," noting how the story spread quickly online.
"The name of the school is being tarnished for (an) act that students did," said Del Campo.
News editor Dylan McHugh contributed to this report.
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