Rodney Walker was killed by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma
At 7am today, just like on most days, grounds workers at Harvard University hoisted the American flag over the bronze statue of John Harvard in the yard named for the school and its clergyman co-founder. There to meet them this morning, however, was a small group of students carrying shopping bags full of miniature American flags. Not just any Old Glorys, but rather ones turned upside down, and each marked with the name and age of a victim of police violence in 2015. Nearby, the group left notes inscribed with Title 35, Chapter 10 of the the United States Code:
“THE FLAG SHOULD NEVER BE DISPLAYED WITH THE UNION DOWN, EXCEPT AS A SIGNAL OF DIRE DISTRESS IN INSTANCES OF EXTREME DANGER TO LIFE OR PROPERTY.”
The letter students left behind further explained:
The police have killed 388 people this year alone.
Our communities are in extreme danger, and these flags are one of the many, many signals of our distress.
Each flag on display bears the name of one person we lost. You might not have heard these names – they are rarely reported. We invite you to spend some time here, read the names, and feel the scale of this violence.
388 people in 5 months.
Your peace is violence.
In another quad not far away, outside of the Harvard Law School Library, a second group of students orchestrated a complementary action with the same message—only much bigger in size, and slung between enormous pillars. We showed up right after they finished setting up their spectacle, and asked how long they expected it to last. As one of them began to answer, another pointed to a campus security guard making a call on his radio.