The U.S. Marine Corps on Friday issued detailed directives about removing and banning public displays of the Confederate battle flag at Marine installations — an order that extended to such items as mugs, posters and bumper stickers.
“Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division — rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself,” the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, said in a statement on Wednesday.
As protests across the United States have erupted over police brutality, pressure has grown on officials to remove monuments and flags seen as symbols of racism.
Dozens of statues were removed after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and protesters demonstrating over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, are targeting some that remain.
The move came after an announcement in April by General Berger that the ban would be put in effect. At the time, however, it was not clear how it would be applied and whether it would extend to clothing and cars owned by Marines, for instance.
“I am mindful that many people believe that flag to be a symbol of heritage and regional pride,” General Berger said in a letter in April to his fellow Marines. “But I am also mindful of the feelings of pain and rejection of those who inherited the cultural memory and present effects of the scourge of slavery in our country.”
The rule announced on Friday for the first time articulated in detail what sorts of displays would be prohibited at office buildings, naval vessels, hangars, ready rooms, conference rooms, individual offices, cubicles, tool and equipment rooms, workshops, as well as other areas.
Among other items, the ban includes posters and flags depicting the Confederate battle flag. The order allows for inspections to take place and directs that any nonconforming displays be removed.
It was not immediately clear when the directive would be carried out. A Marine Corps representative could not be reached on Saturday night.
The directive said that displays in which the Confederate battle flag was depicted, but not the main focus of the display, were exempted from the ban. This could apply to a presentation of the flag in a work of art or an educational or historical display depicting a Civil War battle, for instance.
Lecia Brooks, chief workplace transformation officer at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said on Saturday that the Confederate battle flag was a symbol of white supremacy and the enslavement of black people.
“We urge the other branches of the U.S. military to follow the U.S. Marine Corps’ example, including the National Guard, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other law enforcement branches of the federal government and agencies governed by the Department of Homeland Security, and remove all symbols of the Confederacy,” she said.