Gadsden and Thin Line Flag Removal on Long Walk Prompts Students to Speak on Fox News’ Watters World

3 min read

Olivia Silvey ‘25

Executive News Editor

Two Trinity students spoke on a Fox News segment with alum and Fox commentator Jesse Watters on Thursday, November 3rd regarding an incident from the prior week, where College administration took down two flags hanging outside the students’ dorm window. The short segment included pictures and videos provided by the two students, as well as some questions from Watters. 

The students, Finn McCole ‘23 and Lucas Turco ‘23, share a dorm on the first floor of Cook, and their windows are visible to anyone who walks on the Long Walk. Last week, they hung a Don’t Tread On Me flag (called the Gadsden flag) and a Thin Line flag, both of which were promptly removed by administrators after receiving instructions to take them down. 

During the Fox News segment, both the students and Watters expressed frustration at the fact that their two flags were taken down quickly yet other flags on the Long Walk, such as pride flags, have been allowed to fly without removal. The two students claimed they had no issue with pride flags, just the fact that they were not allowed to fly their own flags. 

After the removal, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney sent a campus-wide email on November 2nd stating that the student handbook policy states that no flags are allowed to hang out windows, and the administration was adhering to a policy that “has been enforced inconsistently.” While the students submitted pictures to Fox News that suggest the pride flags continue to fly while their flags were not, all items hanging from windows were removed once Berger-Sweeney sent the email. 

The Gadsden flag, depicting a rattlesnake, is a symbol historically used by white supremacist and anti-establishment groups. This flag was flown alongside the Confederate battle flag at the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol, and Confederate flags during the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” riots, where groups including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and neo-Confederates converged and three deaths occurred. The flag originated during the Revolutionary War. 

The Thin Line flag is a black and white American flag with three colored stripes: red for firefighters, blue for police, and green for military. It is a variation of the blue lives matter flag, both of which white supremacy groups have flown at white supremacist rallies and riots, including Charlottesville. The students claim they flew both flags because they symbolized their “love of freedom and love of equality for all people” and their “respect and reverence for first responders.” 

Fox News, the two Trinity students, and comments on social media—including on a TikTok posted by one of the students—criticize the removal due to freedom of speech and the first amendment; however, since Trinity is a private institution and not a government entity, the College has the right to make decisions such as removal of certain symbols like the flags. Berger-Sweeney stated in her email that “Trinity College supports the freedom of speech and expression of our students” and apologized for the way the removal was handled. 

Multiple primarily conservative news outlets around the country have picked up the story, including Daily Mail, National Review, and the Epoch Times. The issue has gained considerable traction on social media, with Trinity’s Instagram page flooded with comments criticizing administration. 

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  1. 1
    SH ‘11

    “It is a variation of the blue lives matter flag, both of which white supremacy groups have flown at white supremacist rallies and riots, including Charlottesville.”

    Good to see Finn (lol) and Lucas are fighting the good fight for white rights. Stay strong, boys; your freedom to feed right wing bigotry and fly your next (Confederate) flag are at great peril.

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