‘Threat of Violence’ Prompts UC Irvine to Cancel Flag-Ban Meeting That Draws Protest

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A “viable threat of violence” related to a plan to ban flags — including the U.S. one — in a student government building on the UC Irvine campus prompted the university to cancel a meeting Tuesday.

The American flag has been rehung on the wall of the UC Irvine student government center days after a student government decision to ban all flags from this office set off a firestorm of protests from students and the public. The ban was vetoed March 7, 2015. (Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The American flag has been rehung on the wall of the UC Irvine student government center days after a student government decision to ban all flags from this office set off a firestorm of protests from students and the public. The ban was vetoed March 7, 2015. (Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The student government’s Legislative Council meeting was canceled, a decision supported by student leaders, the university announced.

The University of California Irvine Police Department increased security and its presence on campus in response to the threat, which was not specific, according to the university’s announcement.

The campus came under nationwide scrutiny after a six-member undergraduate student government council body voted Thursday to remove all U.S. and other flags from the lobby area of student government offices. The resolution was vetoed Saturday by the five-member executive cabinet overseeing the student government.

The possibility of overriding the veto was the subject of Tuesday’s Legislative Council agenda, the university said. Students planned to allow 105 minutes of public comment on the issue, university spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said.

An activist argues with a student on March 10, 2015, over a proposed ban on flags at a UC Irvine student government building. (Credit: KTLA)

An activist argues with a student on March 10, 2015, over a proposed ban on flags at a UC Irvine student government building. (Credit: KTLA)

Flag-bearing activists had arrived on campus to protest the meeting, prompting an angry response from at least one student that was caught on video. Students could also be seen conversing less aggressively with flag-supporters.

"There is no reason not to have the American flag on American flag," one activist told a group of students.

Some students emphasized that the controversy arose from an action supported by just a handful of those in student government.

"To say that UCI is anti-U.S.? That's just too much," said Saurabh, a Nepal native, told the Los Angeles Times.

The campus was bombarded by emails and phone calls in connection with the flag ban, the Times reported.

The ban was not supported by the school, the university said in announcing the veto on Saturday.

“This misguided legislation was not endorsed or supported in any way by the campus leadership, the University of California, or the broader student body,” the university said. “The American flag is still proudly flying throughout our campus and will continue to do so.”

The resolution included references to the flags’ use in colonial and imperial contexts, and stated that the flag’s many meanings could run counter to the Associated Students’ goal of a “culturally inclusive space.” It banned use of all flags in the lobby space.

“Flags not only serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism, but also construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments,” part of the 586-word resolution read.

In announcing the cancellation of Tuesday’s meeting, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said that the safety of the campus and its students, faculty and staff was the highest concern.

“We cannot allow our community to be put at risk,” Gillman said. Regardless of your opinion on the display of the American flag, we must be united in protecting the people who make this university a premier institution of higher learning."

State Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Republican from Garden Grove who graduated from UC Irvine, on Monday announced she planned to introduce legislation in favor of a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit public California colleges and universities from banning the U.S. flag.

"My family came here, we escaped Vietnam to search for freedom and democracy," Nguyen told KTLA on Saturday. "I could not be standing in front of you as a state senator without that flag flying every day."

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