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UC Irvine Meeting On Flag Ban Cancelled Over "Threat Of Violence"

A "viable threat" prompted authorities to cancel a student government meeting at UC Irvine Tuesday, following a previous decision to ban the U.S. flag from a student lobby. The ban was vetoed two days later.

Last updated on March 7, 2015, at 8:28 p.m. ET

Posted on March 6, 2015, at 10:52 p.m. ET

Michael Conroy / AP

A "viable threat of violence," at a Southern California university prompted officials to cancel a student government meeting to discuss a previous ban of the U.S. flag.

The threat was received Tuesday, hours before the student government was set to meet to discuss the ban, according to an alert sent out by the University of California, Irvine Police Department.

On Thursday, a student-led referendum banned all flags - including the U.S. flag - from a lobby used by primarily by student government members. The motion, which passed by a 6 to 4 vote, caught nation-wide headlines and outrage. An executive committee of the student government vetoed the decision Saturday.

Authorities said the threat was "not specific," but that school police had "increased its security presence and is conducting an investigation."

Despite the cancellation, several demonstrators opposing the ban walked into the Irvine campus Tuesday with with their own flags.

Protesters flock to @UCIrvine over flag-ban meeting that was canceled due to "threat"

Tuesday's meeting was set to discuss the possibility of overriding the veto, but it has been rescheduled to an undetermined time due to the threat, school officials announced.

"There is no gray area when it comes to threats of violence; they will not be tolerated, and we cannot allow our community to be put at risk," UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a written statement. "Our campus must be a place for save and civil discourse."

Here's the UC Irvine flag that sparked recent controversy when students debated whether it should come down

A student-led resolution to ban the American flag from a UC Irvine lobby was vetoed after the ban caused an outcry in the Southern California campus, and throughout social media.

Reza Zomorrodian, student body president, said an American flag that used to hang in one of the university's lobbies, would be back on display by Monday.

The decision by the student government generated a strong reaction online after all flags were banned from the lobby.

The response included local politicians and state senators, including one who proposed a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit state-funded universities from banning the flag.

On Saturday, the student government's executive board voted 4 to 1 in favor of vetoing the previous motion to ban flags from the lobby.

Zomorrodian said the entire issue began about five weeks ago when a U.S. flag was hung in a lobby used mainly by student government representatives.

No other flags were hung there before, but someone repeatedly took the flag down and left it folded on his desk after multiple efforts to leave it hanging in the lobby, he said.

"It was like a tug of war," he told Buzzfeed News.

The issue came to a head this week when one of the student representatives introduced a motion to ban all flags, which was passed Thursday but was short-lived with Saturday's veto.

Zomorrodian, who said he opposed the flag ban, said the online response, and that from the surrounding community, was so great some of the students who supported the measure cancelled their social media accounts.

Efforts to reach the author of the motion, Matthew Guevara, were unsuccessful.

The American flag, as well as those from other nations, was banned from an area of UC Irvine by the student body government this week.

The student body government for the Southern California campus, which has more than 29,000 undergraduate students, approved the ban on Thursday by a vote of 6 to 4, with two abstentions.

The ban then sparked a wave of criticism, including commenters on the student government's Facebook page.

More than 460 comments were posted on a post addressing the resolution, with some calling it "embarrassing."

"Good job making UCI look like a joke in front of the rest of the country," one person wrote.

Though the ban applied to all flags displayed in the Associated Students main lobby, the resolution did single out the U.S. flag.

"Whereas the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism," the resolution stated.

It continued: "Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech."

The resolution was written by Matthew Guevara, a student of the School of Social Ecology, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After the resolution was approved, student body President Reza Zomorrodian posted a statement on the UCI Associated Students' website stating that the Executive Cabinet of the student government would be taking up the issue.

"Though I understand the authors intent and supporters intent, I disagree with the solution the council has come to," he wrote.

The school's administration posted this response on the controversy:

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.