The US Defence Department officially banned on Friday the display of the Confederate flag in a carefully worded memo that avoids clashing with President Donald Trump.
As of Friday, displaying the Confederate flag on US military installations is now a violation of the Pentagon's rules. The memo released by Secretary of Defence Mark Esper does not single out the Confederate flag ̶ which is largely seen as a symbol of the slavery and segregation era in the US ̶ but rather prohibits it by a process of elimination.
The Associated Press, which first broke the news, quoted US officials that the creative wording is aimed at not “openly contradicting or angering President Donald Trump” who defended as recently as this week displaying the flag.
Instead, the memo lists the types of flags that are allowed at US military installations, and de facto bans others. Those allowed besides the American flag, fall into nine categories: Flags of US states and territories and the District of Columbia; military service flags; Flag or General Officer flags; Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed civilian flags; senior executive service (SES) and military department-specific SES flags; The POW/MIA flag; flags of other countries, for which the United States is an ally or partner, or for official protocol purposes; Flags of organisations in which the United States is a member (e.g. Nato); and ceremonial, command, unit, or branch flags or guidons.
“With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation,” Mr Esper wrote on Twitter.
The debate over the Confederate flag intensified in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in the hands of the police in Minnesota. Protests across hundreds of US cities followed the tragedy, confederate statues were toppled, the flag display was banned by The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and the state of Mississippi announced removing the Confederate emblem from its flag.
But Mr Trump took an issue with these policies, and rejected the removal of the fag on the premise of “freedom of speech.”
"Well, people love it. I know people that like the Confederate flag and they're not thinking about slavery," Mr Trump told CBS News in an interview this week.
A recent Quinnipiac poll saw a majority of Americans viewing the Confederate flag as a racist symbol. 56 per cent said the Confederate flag was a symbol of racism, and 35 per cent said it was a symbol of Southern pride.