University of Vermont's Black Lives Matter flag was attacked by trolls on Instagram

University of Vermont's Black Lives Matter flag was attacked by trolls on Instagram
Source: Instagram
Source: Instagram

They say a picture is worth a thousand words — this one, it seems, is worth a thousand comments. 

On Friday afternoon, the University of Vermont posted an Instagram picture of a flag that says Black Lives Matter waving in front of the Dudley H. Davis center, a student-focused building on the university's Burlington campus. 

A Black Lives Matter flag waves outside the University of Vermont.
Source: 
University of Vermont/Instagram

"This weekend, [University of Vermont's] Student Government Association is sponsoring a #BlackLivesMatter flag at the Davis Center to show support when, as SGA President Jason Maulucci said, 'so many are struggling with the violence and search for justice in this country,'" the caption reads. 

According to local news outlet WCAX, the student government association chose to fly the flag in response to the protests currently taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by police. 

The Vermont Cynic reported that the flag was taken down on Saturday night. "Please know that UVM leadership is committed to supporting the flight of the flag and has not backed down despite criticism and backlash," director of UVM's ALANA Student Center Beverly Colston said in an email, according to the Cynic

While authorities don't yet know who was involved, they're investigating the flag's removal as an act of vandalism. Because backlash to the flag was strong: Before the post announcing the raising of the flag was up for three hours, anti-Black Lives Matter trolls filled the its comments section. 

"Wasn't this also the group calling for the killing of police officers?" one comment reads. "Don't really believe a university should be embracing those values or beliefs." 

Comments from University of Vermont's instagram post, which featured a Black Lives Matter flag
Source: 
University of Vermont/Instagram

One commenter in particular left three comments in rapid succession: 

"Everyone feels safe in the ghetto, police should not even patrol it." 
"More whites are killed by law enforcement than blacks, they don't matter because there is a lot of whites, right?" 
"Vermont is supposed to be one of the smartest states and the least diverse. Keep living that northern white life with little experience in diversity as you jump bandwagon with a racist organization polarizing skin colors and defining people by their skin." 

Several commenters felt that Vermont shouldn't be flying a Black Lives Matter flag because of the state — and the university's — majority white population. 

University of Vermont population statistics
Source: 
University of Vermont

According to the university's website, 81% of the student body is white and only 1% of the student body is black. Some commenters used this data to interpret flag's presence as an act of hypocrisy, while its supporters view it as an act of solidarity. 

Several of the myths about Black Lives Matter espoused in the comments section have already been debunked by many supporters and cultural critics. 

In a statement to Mic, a university spokesperson said they have a flag policy for flagpoles in front of the student center and that the Black Lives Matter flag is in line with that policy. 

"The designated flagpole by the Davis Center has historically flown flags to celebrate and support members of the university community, and individual flags are sponsored by a University group or organization. From the Rainbow flag to celebrate marriage equality or to support our community following the targeted shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, to the national flag of China to celebrate the arrival of the first students from China, to the new national flag to celebrate the forming of South Sudan as a new country, to the flag of Haiti following the natural disaster that destroyed much of their country, the Davis Center has worked with groups who seek to teach and support the principles of social justice and community.

In that spirit the Student Government Association is sponsoring a Black Lives Matter flag to fly over the weekend to recognize the recent police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte. UVM supports free expression, and other University groups are welcome to propose flags with information that they wish to express."

In a statement to the Cynic, the UVM Student Government Association (SGA) remarked on the flag's disappearance. "This action underscores the necessity in this country to engage in a frank and open discussion about the injustices that so many Americans face simply because of the color of their skin," it read. According to Colston, the school will replace the BLM flag on Sunday afternoon. 

Sept. 25, 2016, 4:40 p.m.: This article has been updated.

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Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew Rodriguez is a Staff Writer at Mic. He is a queer Latino New Yorker who enjoys female rappers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Flannery O'Connor. He is a former editor at TheBody.com and he is working on a memoir.

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