Home City Residents who hung Roman SPQR flag take it down

Residents who hung Roman SPQR flag take it down

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When students hung a Roman SPQR flag outside their Athens house, they were accused of being white supremacists. They deny those claims, but said they had to take the flag down.

Ohio University students stirred up controversy after they hung a Roman flag on their off-campus home for a party in late September.

Students living in a house off of Ohio University’s campus celebrated a 21-year-old resident’s birthday on Sept. 23 with a Roman-themed party. As part of the theme, they hung a SPQR flag flanked by tiki torches off of their balcony. Some consider this flag to be a symbol of white supremacy, and as a result, they called the residents’ landlord to force the residents to take the flag down.                                                   

One of the groups who found the flag particularly offensive was the People’s Justice League, an activist group based in Athens, Ohio. They posted a photo of the student’s rental home online with a description that included their address and urged people to complain to the residents’ landlord.

The students living in the rental home said they were unaware of the flag’s ties to white supremacy, and were upset because the People’s Justice League turned to online “doxxing” rather than personal discourse to discuss the situation. They said they thought of the flag as an interesting historical symbol, and did not intend to offend anyone.

The Roman SPQR flag displayed by the students. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After facing harassment from many people in the community, the residents wrote a letter to the People’s

Justice League explaining their reasoning for hanging the flag and asking for an apology as they felt the situation had been handled inappropriately, but the post has not been taken down from the People’s Justice League website.

“I think they know exactly what they’re doing,” Sarah Fick, president of the People’s Justice League, said in an interview with the Athens News.

“Based on their attitude and their line of reasoning on this, everything they’re saying and doing aligns with everything that white supremacist, far-right, neo-Nazis are saying and doing.”

The residents said they were never formally approached by or spoke with a representative from the People’s Justice League before the webpage was published.

“If someone had come up and said ‘Hey, your flag is similar to white supremacist flags. Can you take it down?’ We probably would’ve taken it down,” a resident said.

“But there was this opening of hostility. We felt like we were under attack.”

The residents said they kept the flag up even after becoming aware of its ties to nationalism because they wanted to openly defend their stance on free speech. They added four additional flags to their balcony: a Trump flag, an East Roman Flag, an Israeli flag and an American flag. They said they included the Israeli flag to show that they stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, despite the comments being made about them online.

At time of publication, just the Trump and Israeli flag remain.

Now, the residents display an Israeli flag and a Trump flag. Photo by Connor Perrett.
Now, the residents display an Israeli flag and a Trump flag. Photo by Connor Perrett.

“We’re not going to back down,” the resident said.

“We did nothing wrong.”

After homecoming week, however, the residents took the flag down because their housemates living on the first floor, who had nothing to do with the incident, were also being harassed by people in the community.

“Someone took our tiki torches. They took the metal cans out and started chucking them at our first-floor housemate, freaking her and her boyfriend out,” another resident said.

The residents of the second floor said they were also yelled at, stolen from and photographed in the time the flag was up and after it was taken down.

A People’s Justice League Watchmen Facebook page was created by an anonymous source on Oct. 10, and it released the names and information about the members of the People’s Justice League and their family members.

“It’s funny because they accuse me of doxxing them, when all I did was take a picture from a public roadway and post it to Facebook, which is not doxxing,” Sarah Fick said in another interview with the Athens News.

“The consequences of that to me was actual textbook doxxing.”

The residents of the home said that they will consider taking legal action if the posts about them affect their ability to find a job or rental home in the future. 

“We are willing to have productive discourse,” the residents said.

“If anyone wants to come by.”

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