AMHERST, Mass., Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Protesters demanded the return of the U.S. flag to Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., after it was removed earlier this month, organizers said.
The peaceful demonstration Sunday afternoon was attended by 300 to 400 people at the college, many carrying American flags of their own, college officials and organizers said. A large number of those in attendance were military veterans.
It came after a flag on a college flagpole was lowered by students to half-staff on Nov. 9, the day after President-elect Donald Trump's election victory. A college representative said the decision to lower the flag was in protest of media reports of hate speech and harassment. The flag was set on fire the following night, an incident still under investigation by campus police. The flag was flown the following day, Veteran's Day, but flown at half-staff every day thereafter until Nov. 18, when it was removed from the flagpole.
College President Jonathan Lash said the flag was taken down because some students considered it symbolic of mistreatment of marginalized groups in the United States, and was removed to promote dialogue. He added he expected the flag to be restored eventually.
"I'm very regretful that a group of people with deep and sincere beliefs were hurt," Lash said of local veterans.
The decision to remove the flag prompted local outrage, and the demonstration Sunday was called to show support for the flag.
Gamalier Rosa, an Army veteran who helped organize the demonstration, commented, "Our flag is a symbol of our country. Our clearest message is that we ask others to respect the flag as we do," the Boston Globe reported.
David Soucy, who attended the demonstration, told WWLP-TV, Springfield, Mass., "I was in Iraq 18 months. I got hurt, spent time at Walter Reed [Army Hospital]. I came home and there's no way I'll let anyone take down the flag, no way. It means a lot to me and my brothers."
Lash did not attend the protest Sunday, but met with Rosa and other organizers. Both sides said they were encouraged by the meeting.