Veterans respond to last week’s flag protest at WSU

Vets plan daily pro-flag demonstration this week.

UPDATE @ 11:30 a.m. April 27:

News Center 7’s John Bedell is at Wright State University, talking with student veterans about last week’s protest and getting their responses. He’ll have more on News Center 7 beginning at 5 p.m.

UPDATE @ 5:10 p.m. April 25:

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Tommy DiMassio, a Wright State University student, said he and a group of students organized Friday’s flag-standing demonstration.

“I thought it would rufle some feathers, but I did not anticipate how tense the backlash would become,” DiMassio said.

The junior at WSU said the demonstration was in solidarity with a movement that prompted an arrest last week at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia. Cellphone video shows a U.S. Air Force veteran getting handcuffed after taking an American flag from a group of demontrators who had been walking on the flag to protest racism.

Erin Jenkins is a Wright State graduate who took to the university’s Facebook page once she found out about the protest.

“When you do something like that … when you stand on a flag, you lose your purpose. Anything he was trying to get across, he lost,” she said.

She recognizes the protesters’ rights, but said they could have chosen a different way to demonstrate than by standing on the flag. Her husband, a veteran and graduating WSU senior, agreed.

“If that’s the way he wants to demonstrate his rights, then that’s what this country’s all about. It hurts, but it is what it is, I guess,” Aaron Jenkins said.

DiMassio said his demonstration also was in protest of racism.

“If anything, all that has shown is that people in this area and people on the Internet care more about a symbolic piece of cloth, than they do a black person’s life … or, even beyond that, our Constitutional rights,” he said.

In response to Friday’s protest on campus, a group of veterans plan to rally on Tuesday.

Those who wish to join the planned peaceful demonstration set for 5:30 p.m. are asked to meet in lot 9 or 10 and check in at the Veteran and Military Center at Wright State University, 131 Allyn Hall. Participants are asked to bring a flag if possible.

FIRST REPORT

A man drew media and police attention Friday at Wright State University as he apparently was protesting the American flag.

Our newsroom got calls from concerned veterans and students. Police were at the scene, and the protest was not escalating.

One veteran kneeled next to the flag under a set of feet. The veteran placed a hand on the flag and said a prayer.

Seth Bauguess, WSU Director of Communications, said he didn’t know if the man was a student, but said the protester has the right to free speech.

The protest occurred during the observance of April Craze, formerly May Daze, according to the WSU website, an outdoor festival held every spring with music, food and student organization activities.