On Oct. 6, student Richard Bean was near Lenoir Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, talking with some friends, when he heard a commotion.
The commotion came from a few yards down the bricked-paved walkway near The Pit where College Republicans had set up a table to advertise candidates. With the group was Bean’s large American flag, which he had purchased at the beginning of the school year.
At first, Bean, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, thought a fight had broken out. Bean began to walk over to the table, where he noticed some of the members holding down a man, later identified as Kevin Sellers, a 40-year-old homeless man. Sellers had taken Bean’s flag and set it ablaze. A corner of it had been destroyed before the College Republicans could put it out.
By the time he arrived at the table, Bean said, “the flag had already been burned.”
According to reports, when he burned Bean’s flag, Sellers harangued witnesses with a diatribe about the war and the draft. He was arrested and confessed to police to burning the flag. Sellers faces a felony charge of burning personal property. His next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 18 in Orange County District Court.
“It doesn’t surprise me on this campus,” Bean said of the incident. “I was upset that he burned my flag. I respect his right to burn the flag. I don’t respect his right to burn my flag. It wasn’t about his right to free speech. It was about my personal property being burned.”
The incident, he said, represented a growing problem at UNC-Chapel Hill where liberals are considered always right and conservatives are criticized for anything they do. “Chapel Hill is a community of liberal ideas,” Bean said. “There is a dislike of anything conservative here.”
Afterwards, Bean and the College Republicans were criticized in The Daily Tar Heel, in opinion columnist’s Matt Compton’s words, for “watch[ing] a man go to jail” and “forfeit his right to vote” when Sellers burned Bean’s flag.
Criticizing the Republicans for their fondness for the American flag, Compton cheered Sellers’ action. “I finally saw one man stand up and announce to all those who could hear that he had as much claim to that flag as anyone else,” he wrote.
Compton did acknowledge that, “in the eyes of the law, Sellers had no right to do what he did.” Nevertheless, Sellers said things people “needed to hear,” especially the College Republicans, Compton wrote.
Compton said the College Republicans have “become more and more small-minded, constantly spinning their message until they’ve become dizzy and disoriented.” He accused them of “walking around with a siege mentality.”
Bean has not decided what he will do with the flag. He wants to keep the flag and store it in a case, but has yet to find one to fit his flag. If he can’t find a proper case, Bean said he plans to donate it to a local Boy Scout group so that Scouts can learn how to properly dispose of the flag, or he will give it to the UNC-Chapel Hill ROTC.
“It symbolizes to me all that is wrong with the extreme left of this college,” Bean said.
Shannon Blosser is a contributing writer of Carolina Journal.