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The Latest Campus Battleground Is the Flagpole

As students continue to protest Israel’s assault on Gaza, the flagpoles at universities have become the latest point of conflict.

Students have raised the Palestinian flag at central locations on several campuses across the country, in some cases replacing American flags. This happened on Tuesday at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In New York, Mayor Eric Adams expressed anger at the hoisting of the Palestinian banner at the City College of New York in place of the U.S. flag. “That’s our flag, folks,” Mr. Adams said at a news conference on Wednesday. “Don’t take over our buildings and put another flag up. That may be fine to other people but it’s not to me.”

Mr. Adams mentioned that his uncle died in the Vietnam War, and then added: “It’s despicable that schools would allow another country’s flag to fly in our country. So blame me for being proud to be an American.”

As university officials and police officers have moved to clear protesters from several campuses — more than 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested in less than two weeks — they have also undone the flag switches at some of them.

Lee Roberts, the interim chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, helped to return the American flag to the top of the pole at Polk Place on campus. Police officers were raising the flag even as other officers were pepper-spraying protesters, some of whom had been throwing water and empty water bottles at the police, according to The Daily Tar Heel, the school’s student newspaper.

“To take down that flag and put up another flag, no matter what flag it is, that’s antithetical to who we are, what this university stands for,” Mr. Roberts said, according to the newspaper.

The New York Police Department helped raise the American flag at City College late Tuesday night.

At U.C.L.A., a video showed a pro-Palestinian activist appearing to raise the Palestinian flag on scaffolding alongside a university building on Tuesday, as a police officer tried to detain him. The Palestinian flag was still flying there on Wednesday morning.

Jonathan Wolfe contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

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