A student at Middlebury College, Anna Shireman-Grabowski, and her friend Amanda Lickers were on their way “to facilitate a workshop on settler responsibility and decolonization” when they came across a 2,977 flag memorial, commemorating each of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks and decided to destroy it.
The memorial has become an annual tradition at the Vermont college, a joint effort between the college democrats and the college republicans. It took five students two hours to place the flags on the lawn between the chapel and the library.
When Lickers, a member of the Onondowa’ga Nation, saw the flags, she said that her “natural disdain for the occupying colonial state came to surface,” and impulsively decided to remove the flags, with the help of “4 non-natives,” including Shireman-Grabowski, a known political activist, and member of “Rising Tide Vermont,” which “is committed to dismantling systems of oppression and domination- such as sexism, racism and colonialism…”
As they were uprooting the flags, several students walking by asked “why?” Ben Kinney, president of the College Republicans happened upon the group “just as they were taking the very last of them out of the ground and putting them in piles,” he said. The vandals told him they were “‘confiscating’ the flags in protest of ‘America’s imperialism.'”
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Lickers writes that she
“was confronted by a nationalistic-settler, a young white boy who attends the college demanding i relinquish the flags to him. i held my ground and confiscated them. i did not want to cave to his support of the occupying, settler-colonial, imperialist state, and the endorsing of the genocide of indigenous peoples across the world.”
Zach Despart of the Addison Independent reported that “dozens of students returned to the site of the vandalism to reconstruct the memorial.”