West Point is investigating a photo that shows 16 black female cadets in uniform displaying raised fists outside a U.S. Military Academy barracks.
"We can confirm that the cadets in this photo are members of the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 2016," said West Point’s director of public affairs Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker in an emailed statement. "Academy officials are conducting an inquiry into the matter."While many details are unknown about the photo, the image has been shared widely in military circles, with claims the women are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The raised fist is a symbol associated with Black Lives Matter, although it's been used for centuries to symbolize resistance by a number of groups, from labor unions to suffragists to socialists to the Black Panthers.
The official Black Lives Matter website describes itself as a "chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement." It was created in 2012 following the death of Trayvon Martin.
Army Times received the photo Wednesday from several readers who are concerned the women violated Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces. The policy provides a list of political do's and don'ts for service members and cautions against "partisan political activity" when in uniform.
John Burk — a motivational coach, online firebrand and former soldier — criticized the image Wednesday via his fitness website In The Arena. He said the women may run afoul a section of the policy that says troops may not "Display a partisan political sign, poster, banner, or similar device visible to the public at one's residence on a military installation, even if that residence is part of a privatized housing development." His post on Facebook was shared more than 1,200 times, which helped to fuel speculation and raise concerns.
An email requesting comment from Black Lives Matter leadership was not immediately returned.