Marines ban depictions of the Confederate flag, including on bumper stickers and mugs

The US Marine Corps has ordered the removal of all public displays of the Confederate flag from Marine installations. The Marines made the announcement Friday, following growing removals of Confederate monuments and imagery across the country.

Posted: Jun 7, 2020 12:07 PM
Updated: Jun 7, 2020 12:15 PM

(CNN) -- The US Marine Corps has ordered the removal of all public displays of the Confederate flag from Marine installations.

The Marines made the announcement Friday, following growing removals of Confederate monuments and imagery across the country.

"The Marine Corps shall remove the Confederate battle flag from all installation public spaces and work areas in order to support our core values, ensure unit cohesion and security, and preserve good order and discipline," the order reads.

That includes eliminating any depictions of the flag, from individual offices and storage spaces to naval vessels and government vehicles.

Depictions include things like mugs, bumper stickers and posters -- as well as, of course, the actual flag.

"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 Marines said in a statement posted to Twitter.

"Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society."

Exclusions do exist though, including educational or historical displays, state flags that incorporate the Confederate flag or Confederate soldiers' grave sites.

Though the ruling directs commanders to issue lawful orders to remove the Confederate flag, the ruling doesn't detail a specific date when the removal should take place or any consequences of not abiding by the new rule.

The order gives all responsibility and authority to unit commanders, and implores them to consult their staff when encountering "questionable situations."

The directive provides more details than a February directive about the Confederate flag from the Marines.

The division of Confederate symbols
The directive comes at a time when Confederate memorabilia is increasingly under scrutiny within the American public. Across the country, Confederate monuments are being taken down -- either by local governments or by protesters.

Symbols of the Confederacy, including the flag, have created a division in the country. Many say the flag is a racist symbol representing the war to uphold slavery, while supporters call it a sign of Southern pride and heritage.

Still, the flag specifically has in recent years become a rallying symbol for white supremacists.

In 2015, when Dylann Roof killed nine members of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a photo of him holding a Confederate flag was posted on his website, also featuring his manifesto.

And during the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, referenced in Friday's directive, white nationalists protested the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's statue. Afterward, it was revealed that the leader of Vanguard America -- a white supremacist group that helped organize the rally -- was a former Marine recruiter.

Furthermore, 10 Army bases are still named after Confederate generals, including Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

The military's relationship with Confederate symbols
Following the reports of the former Marine recruiter's involvement with Vanguard America, then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said there is "no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps."

But that doesn't change the fact that 36% of troops who responded to polling say they personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism, according to a poll by the Military Times earlier this year.

That's a jump from 2019, when only 22% reported the same.

And it's not just racist language. Poll participants reported witnessing swastikas on service members' cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between peers, according to the Military Times.

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