UC Irvine's proposed ban on U.S. flag prompts threat of violence

Mar 11, 2015 10:31 AM by CBS/AP

IRVINE, Calif. -- A threat of violence prompted the University of California, Irvine to cancel a Tuesday meeting that was set to discuss a ban on flags - including the U.S. flag - in student government offices.

Campus officials on Tuesday received "a viable threat of violence associated with the recent controversy," and while the threat wasn't specific it was being taken seriously and campus police had increased security and were asking students to report suspicious activities, according to a UC Irvine statement.

"The safety of our campus and its students, faculty and staff is and will always be our absolute, utmost concern. There is no gray area when it comes to threats of violence; they will not be tolerated, and we cannot allow our community to be put at risk," Chancellor Howard Gillman said in the statement.

The debate erupted on the Southern California campus with nearly 30,000 students when someone removed a U.S. flag that hung on a wall in a common area of the student government suite.

Six undergraduate members of the Associated Students legislative council then passed a ban on posting flags of any nation in the office lobby last week. According to CBS Los Angeles, a portion of the resolution reads: "(F)lags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality and democracy."

A higher student panel vetoed it two days later amid condemnation from some veterans, state lawmakers and even Gillman, who called the original vote "outrageous and indefensible."

In its vote last Thursday, the legislative council noted that the American flag has been flown in times of "colonialism and imperialism" and went on to say that "freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech."

A higher student panel known as the executive cabinet vetoed the resolution Saturday. The cabinet called the resolution "misguided" and said it didn't represent the views of the students on campus.

Tuesday evening's meeting by the legislative council was to discuss overturning that veto - although that was considered unlikely. It would require a two-thirds vote to overturn the veto and at least three of the six members who initially voted for the flag ban have said they wouldn't override it, the Orange County Register reported.

On Monday, Republican state lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment that would block California's publicly funded colleges and universities from banning the American flag. That amendment needs a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature to appear on the November 2016 ballot and so far lacks bipartisan support.

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