Crowd gathers for discussion on flag burning

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 1/20/17 6:27pm

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Timothy Messen '18 addresses a crowd of counter-demonstrators, supporters and on-lookers on the Green.

Source: Peter Charalambous / The Dartmouth

On the afternoon of President Donald Trump's inauguration, student demonstrators, on-lookers and counter-demonstrators gathered on the Green in anticipation of a discussion on flag burning.

Timothy Messen '18 organized the discussion in response to a Nov. 29, 2016 tweet from Trump. Messen expressed his views in a guest column for The Dartmouth on Jan. 19. 

Members of Rolling Thunder New Hampshire Chapter 2, a Claremont-based branch of Rolling Thunder, arrived at the middle of the Green prior to the student demonstration. According to Rolling Thunder's website, its "main function ... is to publicize the [prisoner-of-war]-[missing-in-action] issue."

"We had heard a rumor from somewhere that someone was going to be up here protesting, burning flags," said Jim Campbell, a member of Rolling Thunder New Hampshire Chapter 2. "So we put some emails out, some texts, and got a bunch of guys to come up and brought up our flags to show our support for not burning the flag."

Campbell estimated that there were approximately 25 counter-demonstrators from across several organizations, including the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and the Live Free or Die Riders, also based in Claremont.

With a group of supporters carrying signs, Messen arrived and read a statement that he had prepared for the discussion. Speaking through a megaphone, Messen was interrupted several times by the crowd around him. At one point during the statement, Messen clarified that he would not burn a flag but did want to have a discussion. Messen's statement included a critique of Trump's policies and cabinet selections. Messen was also cut off for several minutes as counter-protestors recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Several Safety and Security officers as well as Hanover Police officers surrounded the scene. 

After Messen finished reading his statement, he informed the crowd that he would be willing to engage in further dialogue via email before leaving the Green. A majority of the crowd dispersed afterward, while counter-protestors and on-lookers stayed around briefly to engage in smaller discussions. 

Peter Charalambous contributed reporting.