Mac students raise Palestinian banner over quad in politically motivated prank

By Matea Wasend

Unless you’re an early riser, you probably missed out on an unusual sight the morning of Oct. 4: the Palestinian flag flying above that of the UN on Macalester’s flagpole. Two Macalester students removed the American flag around 1:30 am on Tuesday and replaced it with the red, white, green and black banner used to represent the Palestinian people. Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Security Terry Gorman said a grounds-crew worker found the American flag discarded in some bushes around 7 a.m., then looked up to realize that the Palestinian flag had been raised in its stead. He called Security, who re-hoisted the stars and stripes and turned the Palestinian flag over to Dean of Students Jim Hoppe. One of the students involved, who wished to remain anonymous, said the short-lived prank was premeditated and politically motivated. It all started, he said, when his friend hit on the idea a few weeks back. They scoped out the flagpole plaza, checking the pulley system to see if it was possible to lower the flags without a key. (It was, with the use of some force.) Then the student, who wishes to remain anonymous, ordered a Palestinian flag online. He and his co-conspirator are both political science majors and therefore “pretty tuned in” to world news, the student said. They’re also self-professed pranksters. Anyone who saw the flag early that Tuesday might have recognized it as a gesture of solidarity with Palestine, which has a bid in to the UN requesting official statehood. The student also specifically referenced an incident two years ago, when Macalester didn’t fly the national flag of Palestinian Sami Saqer ’10 at graduation because the U.S. does not recognize Palestine as a country. Jack Wickham ’12, who co-founded Student United for Palestinian Equal Rights in 2009, said he was supportive of the gesture despite the complicated nature of the statehood issue. The prospect of an official Palestinian state has its pros and cons, Wickham said, but regardless of his political opinion he fully supported the flag raisers’ right to “express solidarity with the Palestinian people.” “I certainly don’t think it was offensive,” Wickham said. “It sent a positive message. It made the campus aware of the issue and showed the support that the campus has for the Palestinian people and the right to their own state.” Gorman said this isn’t the first time the pole has been tampered with. “Years ago,” he said, Macalester had some similar “go-arounds” of students vandalizing flags to make political statements.