Students at Louisiana State University are outraged after school officials gave permission for an American flag to be burned on campus today. The flag will be burned by a graduate communications student in an area of the university known as free speech alley.
The protest is reportedly in response to the arrest of another student who was charged with taking and burning the American flag once posted at the university's War Memorial. The initial burning came hours after Usama bin Laden's killing by Navy SEALS.
"He went through all the proper channels, applied for permits and met with LSU police," said Ernie Ballard, the university's media relations director. "LSU is definitely not putting their stamp on the event. This is not an event LSU is endorsing, but we are allowing a student to have his constitutional rights on campus."
Word of today's protest sparked anger throughout the campus.
"This is not accepted by students at LSU," said Cody Wells, the student government association president. "Students are outraged by this and I feel like the nation is seeing the story as LSU students are burning the flag when it reality it is one man doing this."
Wells, 21, told Fox News Radio he is planning a counter-demonstration and has invited students and the Baton Rouge community to join in a public recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and a singing of the National Anthem.
"It's time that my generation stand up for what they believe in and exercise their freedom of speech and let people know that we are not okay with this," he said. "I am angry that an individual would want to do this at a public higher education institution," he said.
That anger is shared by the American Legion. Duane Mercier, a spokesman for the group, said they were heartened by the counter-protest but they were also disturbed that a war memorial had been desecrated.
"That's the saddest part of this whole story that they would desecrate this memorial to the veterans who have served their country," he said.
Wells said he does not fault university officials for granting permission for the flag burning, noting that they could not legally infringe on the student's right to burn the flag.
"If they did, they would have lawsuits filed against them," he said. "It may be allowed constitutionally, but it is not socially acceptable to burn this flag."
Ballard said so long as the protest is peaceful and follows campus procedures, they typically grant permits and "look at all protests equally."
But what about if a student wanted to burn a religious book, like the Koran?
"I'm not sure of the approval process," Ballard said. "They would definitely have to look through it."