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Harding students protested during the national anthem at the pepfest

Elezebet Mitiku, Feature Editor

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Some students decided to take a knee for a couple of reasons, and others didn’t feel like it was right to protest during the national anthem.

“It was inspired by a situation that happened with a student here,” said Nolan Berglund, who was one of the students who kneeled at the pepfest during the national anthem. “He was threatened to get kicked off the swim team because during the swim meet he took a knee.”

Many Harding students saw this incident and many other incidents as silencing someone’s right to express themselves, so they created signs and organized a protest during the Pepfest, and they also created a group called Harding Student Voices.

“We believe that the senior class representatives should be dealing with this,” Nolan said. “We shouldn’t have to make our own [group], but we did.”

A handful of ROTC students also protested, which raised some eyebrows for many other students. Natasha Evans, who is a cadet, took the knee, even though she knew that many others would disagree.

“A lot of student rights at Harding aren’t noticed as much, and a lot of people get in trouble because they sit during the pledge of allegiance or national anthem,” she said. “You have the right to sit during all of it.”

Another cadet who chose to remain anonymous felt like she was in between two sides because while she believes in social justice and took the knee, she has family who are veterans. “When I take a knee, I get into an internal conflict, and it almost feels like I’m disrespecting the flag,” she said.

“I felt disappointed because I thought that as cadets we would understand what the flag is to many people,” said Battalion commander Cher Vang. “But the point as a cadet, we’re supposed to be good citizens, and as good citizens we must never disrespect the flag.”

He feels that while freedom of expression is important, cadets should express their beliefs in a different way, rather than kneeling.

“The only way for you to advocate peace and advocate solutions for police brutality is for you to be active in your community, be aware of what’s happening, doing what’s right like protesting at the capitol, talking to your representative elective officials,” he said.

A senior who wanted to remain anonymous found it rude because she believes that U.S. veterans fought for our freedom. “I believe it’s free speech, however, it wasn’t a proper way to do it, because like I said, I believe the flag represents and resembles the nation’s freedom, from other countries,” she said. “I believe because they have an issue with police brutality or racial inequality, that should go something towards the government, rather than something that symbolizes our nation.”

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem because he saw black men getting killed by the police as an injustice to the nation. He inspired a junior, Yari, to kneel during the national anthem at the Pepfest. “When he took the knee, and everybody started bashing him about what he did, I thought that was kind of petty because he has the freedom to do that,” Yari said.

Even before the Kaepernick controversy, Yari was always into politics. He also described himself as a pro-black person. Some people have criticized pro-black people as racist against white people. “I’m for my people, but that doesn’t mean I hate white people,” he said. “It’s not that I’m racist, it’s that I’m into my history.”

Yari also kneeled because of the Star Spangled Banner’s third verse, which makes a reference to slavery. When he was asked about some ROTC cadets disagreeing with kneeling during the anthem, he said, “Honestly, I think they should just dig a little deeper, and listen to the whole song, instead of just going off of what the teachers are telling them.”

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Harding students protested during the national anthem at the pepfest