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UNC fraternity brothers defend reinstated American flag from campus mob who replaced with Palestinian flag

FIRST ON FOX – A moment of patriotism on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus Tuesday has captured the nation’s attention.

Anti-Israel protesters on Tuesday morning successfully replaced the American flag on Chapel Hill’s quad — which had been flying at half-mast after four Charlotte officers were killed in the line of duty Monday — with a Palestinian flag before UNC Chancellor Lee Roberts responded with law enforcement officers to return the American flag to its place. 

Activists, some of whom were not affiliated with the nation’s first public university, attempted to take it down a second time but were met with resistance from a smaller group of students.

“Today was a sad yet empowering day at Chapel Hill,” student Guillermo Estrada, class of 2027, said in a Tuesday post on X. “When I walked to class, I saw the Palestinian flag raised on our quad flag pole, and was immediately upset at the act that these ‘protestors’ had made. I cannot say I am fully educated on the Israel/Palestine conflict but it upset me that my country’s flag was disrespected in order to advocate for another.”

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UNC Chapel Hill students hold up the American flag during a campus protest on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. Anti-Israel agitators replaced the American flag with the Palestinian one during the demonstration. (Parker Ali/The Daily Tar Heel)

Estrada added that Chancellor Roberts and officers who replaced the flag the first time “were met with profanity, middle fingers, thrown bottles, rocks, and water.” Videos circulating on social media show a group of students singing the National Anthem and chanting “USA” as the American flag was returned to the pole.

“When the flag was raised once again, the Greek community began singing the National anthem. As the Chancellor left, the quad erupted into chaos as protestors began removing the flag once again, preparing to destroy it,” Estrada continued. “My fraternity brother and others ran over to hold it up, in order for it not to touch the ground. People began throwing water bottles at us, rocks, sticks, calling us profane names. We stood for an hour defending the flag so many fight to protect.”

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Anti-Israel protesters replace the American flag with the Palestinian flag during a demonstration at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus

Anti-Israel protesters replaced the American flag with the Palestinian flag during a demonstration at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.  (Heather Diehl/The Daily Tar Heel)

Estrada went on to explain that he comes from an immigrant family and a “military community” where he “saw first hand the sacrifices they make.”

“I will not stand for the disrespect these ‘protestors’ cause for the sake of another country,” Estrada wrote. “My LDOC will be memorable in knowing that my fraternity brothers and others fought to keep the flag up. But it was also be memorable in knowing that so many yearn to disrespect it.”

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The student’s post went viral, garnering more than 25,000 likes as of Monday morning. A GoFundMe created for Chapel Hill’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter has raised more than $57,000 “to throw this frat the party they deserve.”

American flag on UNC campus

The American flag is surrounded by a temporary barrier at Polk Place at the University of North Carolina on May 1, 2024 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  ((Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images))

A barricade has since been established around the flagpole. 

Chancellor Roberts told WRAL in a live broadcast of the protests, “That flag will stay there as long as I am chancellor,” as The Carolina Journal first reported. 

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“Tell students that we will keep them safe from a small minority of students who want to disrupt their experience. This university is for everybody,” he said.

Students work on assignments and listen to organizers as they sit inside the encampment protest in Polk Place on University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., on Monday, April 29, 2024.

A police sweep of the encampment on Chapel Hill’s campus was rumored to occur on Sunday night, but it did not happen. (Makiya Seminera)

The university on Tuesday confirmed that approximately 30 protesters were detained after they allegedly refused to leave an encampment on the quad despite receiving a statement from university administrators telling them to clear the site by 6 a.m. or face expulsion. 

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At 6 a.m., UNC Police “calmly approached the group and detained approximately 30 people who refused to leave. During that time, the protesters attempted to block the UNC Police vehicles by standing in front of them and throwing items at officers. Polk Place was cleared in approximately 45 minutes. Afterwards, UNC Facilities cleared the area of significant debris,” the university said in a statement. 

“After the area was cleared, the remaining protesters escalated their tactics, attempting to forcibly enter South Building by pushing officers and refusing to comply with requests from Facilities and UNC Police,” the university continued.

Students and other community members sit outside tents in University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's central grounds, Polk Place, as part of an encampment protest on Monday, April 29, 2024.

The tents on Chapel Hill’s quad were set up Sunday night following a protest urging the university to disclose and divest investments with Israel.  (Makiya Seminera)

“For the last several months, we have spoken regularly and respectfully with the demonstrators on our campus, consistently supporting their right to assemble and express their views. We have also clearly communicated the University’s long-standing policies on the use of shared public spaces. We have been clear that students and community members can assemble and make their voices heard, but University policies must be followed,” Roberts and Provost Chris Clemens said in their statement.

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Chapel Hill’s school-wide alert system, Alert Carolina, issued a “critical” advisory Tuesday notifying students that classes and non-mandatory activities were canceled in the afternoon.

Tuition for North Carolina residents at the elite public university comes to just under $9,000 and just under $40,000 for out-of-state students.

The protests at Chapel Hill come as students at elite schools across the country protest against Israel and in support of Gaza amid the ongoing war in the Middle East, with activists setting up encampments on campuses, occupying buildings, clashing with law enforcement and resisting arrest. The protests began at Columbia University and have since spread across the country to schools everywhere from Massachusetts to Tennessee, Texas to California.

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