Swarthmore students burn American flag on Columbus Day

On Columbus Day, the Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association (SISA) burned the American flag and issued a set of demands, including removal of the flag from campus.

The demands, posted on flyers in the campus dining hall, also called on Swarthmore College to “admit and recruit native students,” asserting that “Swarthmore has consistently had a student body that is less than 1% indigenous,” possibly because it “does not recruit on any reservations or at any of the Native schools.”

The students also demanded an “indigenous studies special major,” but then went on to insist that the school “actively encourage classes on indigenous people in all departments.”

Additionally, protesters called for the removal of “the U.S. flag from Parrish,” an on-campus building, claiming that “Indigenous students have died in the name of this flag” while “international students suffer the effects of the American neocolonialism of this flag.”

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“All people deserve to feel comfortable at their school,” the demands continue, concluding with a call for the school to create a fund to pay for flights “to and from home” for all students who are unable to afford travel expenses.

“Indigenous communities are where our identity is built,” the group asserts, adding that “Severing our ability to return home severs our identity just as international students.”

The demands were made public at a flag-burning event held in the woods bordering campus, a practice that the group later justified in a statement published in Voices, a student publication.

“We burn the American flag not just for ourselves, but for our ancestors who died because of that flag. We burn it for our indigenous siblings across the globe and for all of the people across the globe exploited by the United States and other Western imperialist states, caught in between their wars,” the statement declared.

“We burn the flag for our kinfolk here on these lands we love, the other marginalized groups we are offering our solidarity to, hoping they offer it in return. We burn this flag because we want you to know it’s not just you who is angry and fighting against this broader oppressive apparatus: we are too,” it concludes, claiming that  the flag burning “was not the first chosen route to have [their] needs met,” but that the school had “unfortunately time and again invalidated our existence and without apology, upheld settler-colonialism.”

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Additionally, SISA had requested that fellow students “wear all black” on Columbus Day in mourning of the lives lost to him, and also held an “anti-Columbus Day” event that interrupted another on campus event.

According to Voices, the anti-Columbus Day event encroached upon a previously scheduled musical performance, and refused to vacate when asked by an administrator.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mstein81