[article originally appeared in Golden Gate [X]Press]
The College Republicans gathered Wednesday afternoon in Malcolm X Plaza to celebrate what they deemed “Corporate America Appreciation Day,” a day to celebrate what they referred to as the “philanthropy of capitalism.”
The event ended with Leigh Wolf, 20, a BECA major and president of the College Republicans, calling out by name members of the student government who have condemned the group in the past for stomping flags representing Hamas and Hezbollah, which contain Islamic symbols.
Malcolm X Plaza was decorated with oversize bills and dollar signs. Students, upon reading a sign that said “Corporate America Appreciation Day, Enjoy Capitalism,” began to gather to see what was going on. A lot of people did not know what they were about to witness.
“How many of you like money?” asked Wolf, kicking off the event. He followed up that statement by calling out the student-run group MEChA (Mouimiento Estudantil Chicanalo de Aztlan). “MEChA, this is what I think of your ban on Coke,” said Wolf as he opened a can of Coca-Cola into the microphone. The group is currently enacting a boycott on Coca-Cola in response to their alleged human rights abuses.
Wolf continued to sip on the Coke as he started a trivia game for prizes such as Starbuck’s frappucinos and mock oversize $100 bills. The questions ranged from “Who is the highest paid CEO in America?” to “Who owns Myspace.com?”
The trivia game was followed by a speech from member John Ashford, 26, a kinesiology major. The main highlight of his speech was the fact that private corporations and investors donate more money than the U.S. Government to nonprofit and community organizations.
“We want to promote diversity,” said A.J. Weissmiller, 26, a double major in international business and Chinese. He stated that if groups like the College Republicans weren’t publicly making themselves known, they would become lost in the shuffle of a campus that is notoriously left leaning.
The College Republicans said that today’s display was not only to celebrate capitalism, but also to practice their group’s right to freedom of speech. The event peaked as Wolf took the stage and publicly stomped on the flag representing Al Qaeda saying, “No matter how offensive you may find my stepping on this Al Qaeda flag, it’s my constitutional right, and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to tell me that I can’t disrespect America’s enemy during a time of war.”
Toward the end of Wolf’s speech, on behalf of the organization, he called out members of General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), the Associated Students, and the campus Socialists.
“I will not be pushed around by [AS members] Maire Fowler, Brian Gallagher, Kimberly Castillo, Maria Cortez, the Socialists or the GUPS,” he said. “So come down to the stage, anyone who condemned us for stepping on the Hezbollah and Hamas flags, come down to Malcolm X Plaza and tell me that I have no right to step on an Al Qaeda flag. All three flags have the same symbol, all three flags represent the same evil.”
No one came down to the stage in protest.
As Wolf walked off stage, he wiped his foot one last time on the Al Qaeda flag before Vice President Trent Downes ripped up the flag.
The event was heavily secured, as university police were stationed on the top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, lining the quad and on the sides of the stage. The event however, was not heavily publicized, and drew little crowd reaction.
Bystanders seemed confused and interested as the event began and continued to draw attention with the flag stomping.
“[The College Republicans] have the right to say whatever they want, but it is so fucking twisted you just gotta laugh,” said Carlos Gonzalez, an ethnic studies alumnus.
Other campus groups were critical, yet not actively participating in the event or publicly reacting to it.
“College Republicans are very cynically trying to support capitalist ideology,” said Michael Hoffman, 26, a mathematics graduate student who was standing at a table representing the International Socialist Organization, one of the groups that was called out by Wolf in his speech.
Representatives from the Muslim Student Organization and MEChA could not be reached for comment.
The College Republicans said the group’s goal with the public display of the desecration of the Al Qaeda flag was to make people choose sides.
“Who will stand with me? Not as a Democrat or a Republican, but as an American. Who will stand with me in sending a message to radicals?” Wolf said. “We cannot let ourselves fall prey to vitriolic, politically correct demands of the few. We must rise to the occasion and defend that which makes our country great.”