The United States Military Academy at West Point said Wednesday that an investigation is underway regarding a photograph that shows 16 black cadets in uniform posing with their fists in the air.
“We can confirm that the cadets in this photo are members of the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2016,” West Point’s director of public affairs, Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker, told Army Times on Wednesday. “Academy officials are conducting an inquiry into the matter.
John Burk, an Army veteran who served in the Iraq War before launching a popular fitness website, accused the 16 female cadets photographed in the picture of aligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement by posing with their fists raised — a gesture that indeed has been adopted by the protest movement, as well as other, unrelated groups for centuries.
If the gesture was meant to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he wrote, then the women may have violated a Department of Defense directive that prohibits enlisted members from engaging in “partisan political activity” while in uniform.
“This overt display of the Black Lives Matter movement is not, in itself, wrong per say [sic], but to do so while in uniform is completely unprofessional and not in keeping with what the USMA stands for,” Mr. Burk wrote on his “In the Arena” website.
The Army Times on Wednesday said it had been forwarded the image from several readers that day who also were concerned the women may have violated DOD policy. Mr. Burk said no fewer than seven sources inside the walls of West Point told him in recent days that the image was causing a stir around campus.
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“It’s a really touchy subject here,” he quoted an individual described only as a credible source. “We can get kicked out of West Point, or forced to repeat years for what is called a ‘respect board.’ They can be given for just making someone upset, so no one wants to get kicked out of college and lose their commission over something like this, especially since a white man, in this situation, is already at a disadvantage when a conversation like this starts. It’s purely political.”
Formed following the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, Black Lives Matter has since swelled to a nationwide movement that describes itself as a “chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life.”
A video posted on Mr. Burk’s Facebook page on Wednesday regarding the image had been viewed more than 20,000 times in less than 24 hours, and a related article on the matter had received hundreds of comments, fueling speculation and further raising concerns, Army Times reported.