Student hauled in for questioning over 'Come and Take It' flag
- A student at South Pasadena High School was brought before administrators for questioning when he tried to wear a "Come and Take It" flag to a pro-Second Amendment walkout.
- The administrators insisted that the depiction of an AR-15 on the flag constituted "promoting violence," calling the student a "provocateur" when he insisted that he was just wearing it to show his support for the Constitution.
Officials at South Pasadena High School hauled a student in for questioning for wearing a “Come and Take It” flag as part of his Second Amendment activism.
According to an audio recording obtained by Campus Reform, several school officials extensively questioned Charles Li, a member of South Pasadena High School Young Conservatives, as he was preparing to participate in a pro-Second Amendment walkout.
An assistant principal and another administrator spoke with Li about the “Come and Take It” flag that he was wearing as a cape, and informed him that the school’s dress code does not allow students to promote “violence.”
Among the best-known variations of the flag dates back to the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas War for Independence, when Texas militia used it to taunt Mexican soldiers tasked with seizing the town’s cannon, but Li was wearing a more contemporary iteration depicting an AR-15 in place of the cannon barrel.
“Yeah...it’s not an actual gun,” Li tells the administrators shortly after being confronted.
“So it is a gun,” a female administrator interjects triumphantly, to which Li replies that, “if it is a gun, I have a right to wear it, in support of the Second Amendment,” pointing out that “the whole point of the protest is going against a semi-automatic weapons ban.”
The administrator counters that he had “more of a right to wear it off-campus on your walk” than inside the school, “because our dress code says people cannot promote drug use, violence, and so forth.”
“Well, I’m not promoting violence,” Li responds. “How am I promoting any violence? I don’t get how this is promoting violence, just by supporting the Constitution.”
“I don’t really see how it’s supporting the Constitution by wearing a gun on your back,” the official counters, after which a male administrator adds that “I don’t remember there being semi-automatic rifles in the Constitution.”
The administrators insist however, that the cape cannot be allowed “if it’s gonna be something that intimidates or scares people or disrupts the educational process,” then ask a more fundamental question: “Were you wearing this all day? Or are you just wearing it for your march right now?”
Li confirms that he was only wearing the flag for the march, explaining that he had put it on “during a break, when no one was learning.”
After Li reminds the administrators of the flag’s historical origins, one of them concedes the point, but argues that the message is not necessarily clear to everyone.
“Okay. ‘Come and take it,’ the gun, and the star. I can see how all that symbolizes something for you,” she says, but “for other people, I don’t think it says ‘support the Second Amendment.’”
After a bit more back-and-forth, a male administrator settles for a simple warning.
“If that’s something you’re going to wear during your march, that’s one thing. When you’re leaving campus, just be aware of what comes along with that, and people’s reactions to seeing a semi-automatic weapon,” the official warns Li, noting that “when you wear it as a cape, you can’t even see all the wording that’s attached to it...you just see a big gun.”
“I’ve always told you, you’re a provocateur,” another administrator then chastises Li.
At the end of the discussion, the administrators ask Li to surrender his phone so that they can examine its contents, explaining that “we’re going to be talking to you in a minute about what you might possibly have on that phone.”
South Pasadena High School’s dress code doesn’t specifically mention depictions of firearms, but does prohibit clothing “bearing connotations of violence.”
A teacher close to the Young Conservatives chapter at South Pasadena High School told Campus Reform that “the dress code is generally ignored by students, without consequences,” describing the confrontation with Li as part of a continuing trend of harassment against conservative faculty members and students.
The teacher, who asked to remain anonymous because “they’d fire me in a heartbeat,” also reported that administrators had encouraged students to take part in a walkout in favor of increased gun control, but not the May 2 walkout in favor of the Second Amendment, a claim that Li corroborated.
Campus Reform reached out to South Pasadena High School for comment, but has not received a response.
UPDATE: South Pasadena High School released the following statement, reported by the South Pasadenan:
"On May 2, 2018, a student walked around the South Pasadena High School campus wearing a cape picturing a semi-automatic rifle.
"At South Pasadena Unified School District, student safety is our primary concern. Anytime a symbol is presented on campus that could potentially intimidate or scare people, administrators will investigate. If the symbol or activity disrupts the educational process for other students, then the student(s) involved will be called in to discuss the matter.
"During this incident, SPHS school procedures and education code were followed. The student proceeded with a planned march, which had been discussed with the administration over the course of several months, and he chose to remove the cape for the remainder of the school day. Upon request, the student voluntarily turned in his phone, which was not searched by administrators. The student made a recording on a different device without the knowledge or consent of administrators."
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