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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Amherst, Massachusetts Battles Over Flag-Flying

Aired October 14, 2001 - 08:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Since the terrorist attacks, many Americans have found the renewed patriotism. Companies that make American flags can barely keep them on the shelves.

But as CNN's Bill Delaney tells us, not everyone is convinced of what the stars and bars represent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A town meeting in the small, pleasant college town of Amherst, Massachusetts. It was September 10, the night before the hijacking of four U.S. airlines. Jennie Traschen, a University of Massachusetts physics professor, said this about the United States flag.

PROF. JENNY TRASCHEN, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS: Actually, what the flag stands for is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and repression.

DELANEY: The next day, in the wake of the hijackings, Web sites began to fill with anger toward Professor Traschen, and she received a deluge of what she describes as hateful and vile, even frightening phone and e-mail threats. Declining to comment on camera, she now says her beliefs haven't changed, but her words were taken out of context. The hijacking, she said, horrified her.

(on camera): Professor Traschen became unraveled in a controversy here that began last August when, spurred by a group of veterans, Amherst put up 29 flags in the center of town.

Around Labor Day though, the flags came down, veterans say because of complaints. Town officials say that had always been the schedule, pending a public meeting and vote that happened the night before the hijackings.

(voice-over): By a vote of four to one that night, the town select board elected to only fly the flags on six holidays. But the next day amid the shock and grief after the hijackings, a group from the back of a pickup truck put up the flags all over again.

Some, like David Keenan had been present when Jennie Traschen spoke the night before.

DAVID KEENAN, AMHERST RESIDENT: It just meant to me, the battle is here. What can I do here? You know, I was angered. You know, the woman -- what country would allow, you know, a person to be able to say those things against their country?

DELANEY: Well this country, say defenders of Professor Traschen. Even veteran Rod Raubeson who first thought up putting up flags in Amherst opposes, he says, attacks on Professor Traschen.

ROD RAUBESON, VETERAN: My goodness, the very idea that they could dissent and have an opposite opinion is protected by the very banner that they're telling you they're fighting of.

DELANEY: After the hijackings, with the flags back up anyway, the Amherst Select Board decided to keep them up until Veteran's Day.

BARRY CASTILOH, TOWN MANAGER: It's in recognition of the fact that people in Amherst have lost friends and family in the attacks on the United States.

DELANEY: Veterans and their supporters, though, say they won't let the flags come down until the war on terrorism ends, a war we've all often been warned now will go on for years.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Amherst, Massachusetts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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