NEWSCORE – A mob of angry protesters chased a would-be flag burner at Louisiana State University (LSU) off campus Wednesday to chants of “USA, USA.”
Graduate communications student Benjamin Haas had earlier been given permission by the school to burn the flag. But because he lacked a local burn permit, he agreed instead to read a statement in an area of the university known as free speech alley.
As Haas read the statement, a crowd around him erupted into cheers and jeers, many shouting “Go to hell, hippie, go to hell.”
“You had a lot of people on both sides of the debate getting into a lot of fights,” said James Haralson, manager of Tiger TV, the university television station. “The students started yelling obscenities at him. People started throwing bottles at him.”
Fox News reports that Haas’ actions were in response to the arrest of another student, who was charged with taking and burning the American flag once posted at LSU’s War Memorial. That incident came just hours after Osama bin Laden’s killing by US Navy SEALS last week.
Haralson, who filmed the protest, said Haas was surrounded by police officers on horseback and as they protest swelled, they moved him to a safer location.
“At that point, all the students began rushing him, continuing to throw trash at him,” he said. “He was finally escorted into a cop car in the street and students were banging on the cop car.”
LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said the school endorsed neither Haas’ actions, nor those of the crowd around him.
Word of the potential burning had sparked pockets of anger throughout the campus.
“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 OK with this,” said Cody Wells, the student government association president. “I am angry that an individual would want to do this at a public higher education institution.”