Veterans' groups express anger after pro-Palestinian protesters defaced a WWI statue in Central Park and burned an American flag

NEW YORK CITY, NY - On Monday, May 6th, thousands of anti-Israel protesters descended upon Central Park where they vandalized a World War I memorial and burned an American flag. 

According to the New York Post, the protesters torched the American flag at the site of the 107th Infantry Memorial. The base of the statue was also defaced with graffiti that read, "Gaza" in large black letters. Other protesters plastered the WWI statute with stickers of the Palestinian flag that read, "Stop the Genocide. End the apartheid. Free Palestine." Palestinian flags were also draped over the infantrymen.

The protesters were marching on the city's Upper East Side near Hunter College and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the Met Gala was being held. Police were reportedly not at Central Park while the march was going on, but there was a very large police presence at the Met, ensuring that one of the biggest nights in fashion was not interrupted by the anti-Israel protesters. 

Fox News reported that several veterans groups expressed their anger and sadness after hearing the news of the vandalism, prompting city officials to voice their own criticisms of the protesters while also acknowledging their First Amendment rights. 

The bronze statue that was defaced depicts seven soldiers from the U.S. Army 107th Infantry of the Seventh Regiment in the midst of a battle as they burst through the Hindenburg Line, which was the last and strongest of the German army's defense, back in September 1918. Joseph Chenelly, national executive director for AMVETS, said in a statement, "These despicable acts of vandalism by ignorant individuals is maddening, to say the least."

He added, "The perpetrators are ignorant of American history. Hopefully, they are simply unaware of the sacrifices made by the 'doughboys' of World War I. Hopefully, these culprits are just uneducated on how the valor displayed by young Americans more than a century ago is still important to preserving democracy today."

Chenelly is a Marine Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Tuesday, May 7th, Mayor Eric Adams blasted the protesters who vandalized the WWI statue. He offered $5,000 of his own money in reward, in addition to a $10,000 reward from the New York Police Department (NYPD) Crime Stoppers, for information leading to an arrest. Adams' uncle died while serving in Vietnam at the age of 19. He said, "I will not stand by while people desecrate memorials for those who fought for democracy and human rights. The rights that they [anti-Israel groups] are calling for."

Duane Sarmiento, the commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the actions of the protesters "inexcusable and infuriating," adding that, "those exercising their right to free speech would deface a memorial honoring those who fought and died 106 years ago in Flanders Fields for the rights of all to be free and to help bring WWI to an end."

A spokesperson for the American Legion as well as other veterans groups said that it supports the right to assemble and protest peacefully, something that was not the case on Monday night with the anti-Israel protesters. The American Legion told Fox News Digital, "However, we are saddened and disappointed of the news that protesters burned an American flag and vandalized a veterans memorial last night in Central Park. Our members swore on their lives to protect our nation, our flag and all citizens. We hope that, upon reflection, the demonstrators realize that the nation's veterans' defense of the flag actually allows them the right to protest."

Chenelly added, "Once caught, it would be appropriate to see those responsible ordered to learn their history, to learn how four million Americans risked it all, how more than 116,700 lost their lives fighting evil and ensuring liberty will endure. It is quite possible that if American infantrymen didn't help turn World War I for the Allied Force in 1918 and 1919, protesters wouldn't have their right to freedom of speech."

On the same night another Central Park monument, the Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman bronze statue in Grand Army Plaza, was also vandalized. "Free Gaza" was graffitied in red letters on the base of the memorial and a Palestinian flag was affixed to its front. 
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They should be required to sit through an 6-month course on why some people must give thier lives so others can be free & the history of people who have done that.

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