The United States Marine Corps has issued a directive to remove all public displays of the Confederate battle flag from their installations. The new directive was handed down Friday.
According to the directive, Marine Corps commanders must “identify and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag or its depiction within work places, common-access areas and public areas on their installations.” The directive applies to the entire Marine Corps.
The flags are being removed “in order to support our core values, ensure unit cohesion and security and preserve good order and discipline,” the directive explains.
While there were many different battle flags used by the Confederacy, the directive specifies the flag in question is the battle flag carried by the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Exceptions to the new directive include works of art where the flag is present but not the main focus, Confederate grave sites, state-issued license plates depicting the flag and any official state flags that incorporate the Confederate battle flag.
In addition to office buildings, facilities and Naval vessels and aircraft, the directive notably also applies to “all areas in public or plain view.”
“For example … The front yard or external porch of government owned – government operated housing and public private venture housing,” the directive states. “This includes, but is not limited to, depictions of the Confederate battle flag on automobile bumper stickers, clothing, and other apparel.”
The flag has been a controversial symbol for decades, and the Marine Corps noted in a statement that the flag has “all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps.”
Indeed, many attendees of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, were seen carrying the Confederate battle flag.
In 2015, calls to remove the Confederate flag from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse intensified after the Charleston church shooting. Nine black members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston were killed during a bible study session by Dylann Roof. Photos posted to social media of Roof showed him wearing clothing adorned with various white supremacist symbols and holding a Confederate flag.
Ten days after the shooting, activist Bree Newsome famously scaled the flag pole in front of the South Carolina Statehouse and took down the Confederate flag flying atop it. Newsome and fellow activist James Tyson were both jailed for the stunt.
“I just felt that it was very important that it be a group of citizens … who go up and bring that flag down — even if they put it back up a minute later — just to know that’s how strongly we felt about it,” Newsome told CBSN at the time.
A few weeks later, the flag was removed for good.