In the midst of the protests against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd, the U.S. Marine Corps has banned displays of the Confederate battle flag on Marine installations. The flag can no longer be depicted on everything from a mug to a bumper sticker at individual offices and naval vessels and government vehicles. The flag itself was also banned under the new rule announced Friday.
"The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps," the Marine Corps said in a statement shared on Twitter. The Marines noted the flag's divisiveness in society has led to events "like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017" and it is a "threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline." This needed to be addressed, according to the Marines, so all depictions of the flag are no longer allowed.
Today, the Marine Corps released guidance on the removal of public displays of the Confederate battle flag.June 6, 2020
The new rule does not include a deadline for the flag depictions' removal or what the consequences will be of ignoring the directive, notes CNN. There are some exceptions, including educational depictions, state-issued license plates with the flag and flags placed at Confederate soldiers' graves. "Commanders are expected to apply their best judgment informed by the spirit and intent of this maradmin," the order reads. "If a commander encounters questionable circumstances," the commander can contact the command staff judge advocate to advise.
The directive followed a statement from Marine Corps commandant Gen. David H. Berger on Wednesday, in which he said there "is no place in our Corps for racists." Berger called the protests a "stark reminder" that they have to do more than just remove Confederate and other offensive symbols. "We also must strive to eliminate division itself," Berger wrote, later adding, "Only as a unified force, free from discrimination, racial inequality, and prejudice can we fully demonstrate our core values, and serve as the elite warfighting organization America requires and expects us to be." Berger first announced in April he would ban the Confederate flag, but it was not until Friday that the directive was officially sent out.
Lecia Brooks, chief workplace transformation officer at the Southern Poverty Law Center, praised the Marine Corps for their decision. However, she called on other branches of the U.S. military to follow their lead by removing all symbols of the Confederacy, reports the New York Times.
Confederate depictions have long been controversial as they are seen as symbols of institutional racism. They have also been targets of demonstrations since Floyd's death on May 25. Last week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond will be removed. The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama ordered a Confederate statue to be removed after demonstrators demanded it.