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High school band marches with hammer & sickle

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By Todd Starnes

A Pennsylvania high school marching band is raising eyebrows with a halftime performance that commemorates the Russian revolution, complete with red flags, olive military-style uniforms, and giant hammers and sickles.

"St. Petersburg: 1917" is the theme for the New Oxford High School Marching Band. Ironically, the school's athletic teams are called the Colonials and their colors are red, white and blue. The band's website features a picture of the group with students holding a hammer and sickle.

"There is no reason for Americans to celebrate the Russian revolution," said one irate parent who alerted Fox News. "I am sure the millions who died under Communism would not see the joy of celebrating the Russian revolution by a school 10 miles from Gettysburg."

The parent, who asked not to be identified, attended a football last Friday night with his children. He said he was shocked by what he saw.

"It was Glee meets the Russian Revolution," he told Fox News. "I'm not kidding you. They had giant hammers and sickles and they were waving them around."

"Who thought this was a good idea?"

Rebecca Harbaugh, the superintendent for the Conewago Valley School District, told Fox News that the band's performance was "not an endorsement of communism at all."

"It's a representation of the time period in history called St. Petersburg 1917," she said. "I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am."

"If anything is being celebrated it's the music," she said. "It is what it is. I understand people look at something and choose how to interpret that and I'm just very sorry that it wasn't looked at as just a history lesson."

Besides, she explained, "in 2008 we did an entire show on freedom."

But some critics said it's outrageous for any American school to be celebrating such a violent era.

"It would be tantamount to celebrating the music of 1935 Berlin," the parent said. "If I was Lithuanian, Estonian, or Ukrainian, I'd be a little hot. I'd be really hot. It's insulting to glorify something that doesn't need to be glorified in America."

Paul Kengor is the executive director for the Center for Vision & Values at Pennsylvania's Grove City College.

He initially thought the halftime performance was a joke.

"This is surreal," he told Fox News. "This is like something out of the Twilight Zone – but it's even stranger than that."

Kengor said even if the school was not celebrating the revolution "they seem to be commemorating this to some degree."

"The Bolshevik Revolution launched a global Communist revolution that from 1917 through the 1990s was responsible for the deaths of over a hundred million people," he said. "What the Russian revolution unleashed was a nightmare – a historical human catastrophe. This is something that should be condemned and not in any way commemorated or laughed at."

Gerson Moreno-Riano, dean of Regent University's College of Arts & Sciences, told Fox News the performance is shocking.

"The Russian revolution was one of the most violent episodes of the 20th Century," he said. "Lenin put into place a doctrine of mass terror to crush the opposition and thousands and thousands of people were murdered.

The history professor said there's very little to celebrate in that movement.

"It's full of violence, terror, destruction and in some weeks thousands of people were executed – some thrown with rocks around their necks into the river to drown," he said.

"It's quite frankly horrific that a high school would be celebrating that at a football game," he said.

He was even more disturbed by the group photograph of the band in front of the hammer and sickle.

"To raise the emblems of the hammer and sickle – the emblems of so much violence, destruction and terror – is a lack of knowledge of history," he said.

In the best case scenario, he said the editors were simply ignorant of the era.

"The worst case scenario is someone who is trying to celebrate something they know about – and they're trying to insert this into their educational agenda," he said.

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