Anti-Israel Protesters at UNC Replace Stars and Stripes With Palestinian Flag

UNC protesters heckled police when they returned the American flag to the top of the flagpole

(UNC SJP/Twitter)
May 1, 2024

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill replaced the American flag in the center of campus with a Palestinian flag, as protests continued at the school Tuesday despite dozens of arrests and detainments.

UNC administrators demanded Tuesday morning that protesters disband the encampment, threatening suspensions and expulsion if they refused. When the protesters refused, police began making arrests. Police also erected a barrier around the school’s anti-Israel encampment, which was set up on the university’s quad last week where the American flag usually waves atop the flagpole.

The protesters later returned, forcibly removed the barrier, and began circling the flagpole. They proceeded to lower the American flag and replace it with a Palestinian one. Soon thereafter, police returned, clashed with protesters a second time, and again placed the American flag atop the flagpole under the supervision of UNC’s interim chancellor.

The tension at UNC coincides with tension on other campuses across the country. At Columbia, where the encampment movement began earlier this month, student protesters occupied a building on campus. Meanwhile, at the University of Texas-Austin, dozens of students who set up an encampment were arrested following a clash with police Monday that involved riot gear and tear gas. Similar events have occurred on other campuses across the United States.

Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts joined police as they sought to return the American flag on UNC’s quad Tuesday, video and pictures of the event showed. Protesters chanted, "Who are you protecting?" while the police restored the American flag to its place, videos posted to social media show.

It is unclear if any additional arrests were made at UNC-Chapel Hill Tuesday afternoon, following the wave of arrests earlier that morning. By the afternoon, the university decided to cancel classes and non-mandatory operations for the rest of the day.

The university did not respond to the Washington Free Beacon’s request for comment.

The university on Tuesday released a joint statement from Interim Chancellor Roberts and Provost Chris Clemens, who said protesters "backtracked on their commitment to comply with [campus] policies, including trespassing into classroom buildings overnight."

"Our students are preparing for final exams and end-of-year activities, including graduation, and we will continue to promote an educational environment where they can do so safely and without disruption," the statement said.

As of Tuesday evening, the university indicated that 36 protesters had been detained after failing to abide by the university’s disperse order. Thirty were cited for trespassing and later released, the university added, including 10 UNC-Chapel Hill students and 20 people not affiliated with the university. Meanwhile, six protesters, three students and three non-students, were taken to the Orange County Detention Center and later released on a notice to appear.