Black Lives Matter Flag at University of Vermont Draws Support and Controversy

A Black Lives Matter flag on the campus of the University of Vermont in Burlington is drawing both support and condemnation.

"I think it's a great statement for the university to make," UVM alumna Amanda Fleming said of the flag that started flying Thursday.

The Black Lives Matter message now flies alongside the Vermont and U.S. flags, on a pole where banners for environmental causes and LGBT rights have previously flown.

The raising of the flag follows a week that saw a white Oklahoma police officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, and protests and clashes in North Carolina, following another fatal police shooting of a black man there.

The UVM student government association told necn that following those painful incidents, the flag display was meant to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I like how the university is projecting that they're supporting everybody," said UVM freshman Ariel Tubbs.

"As an African-American on campus, it may at times be hard to have your voice heard, but this is actually a significant thing," said Kome Ekor, a UVM junior. "So I'm kind of happy about that."

However, not everyone is as enthusiastic.

On the Facebook page of necn affiliate NBC 5, there was backlash.

"UVM you disgust me," Facebook user Kyle Ketner wrote, noting he is a veteran who did not like how the Black Lives Matter flag was placed on a pole so near the U.S. flag.

"Should be removed," wrote Mary Lyons, another Facebook user. "ALL lives matter, why are we isolating one race? The only flags that should bly (sic) at UVM are the American flag and the state flag!"

"All lives matter...this shows a divided America....and if the ones breaking the law would act accordingly when a policeperson says something, nobody will get shot," wrote Facebook user Cheryl Dixon.

The vice president of the student government association said the SGA has received lots of support from students and educators on campus.

However, Tyler Davis said plenty of complaints have also come in, mostly from off-campus. Some have even used racial slurs and profanities, he added.

"It's a divisive topic," Davis said. "The end goal is to achieve equity and have all lives matter. But for now, we have to focus on those which are most marginalized."

The original plan was to have the flag fly through Monday, but if student groups request it, that could be extended, Davis said.

A student demonstration is planned for late Monday afternoon, Davis told necn. Participating students plan to wear all black, then take a picture by the Black Lives Matter flag.

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