The commandant of the Marine Corps has banned the public display of the Confederate battle flag, a symbol that he said had the “power to inflame” division.
The intent behind the ban was not to judge the meaning that individual Marines ascribe to the symbol, he said, but rather to help build “a uniquely capable warfighting team whose members come from all walks of life.”
The flag has the “power to inflame feelings of division,” he said, adding, “I cannot have that division inside our Corps.”
He ended his letter by asking Marines to focus on the symbols that unite them: the eagle, globe and anchor.
It was not immediately clear if the ban would apply to clothing and cars owned by Marines when they are off base and off duty. The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
The announcement came two months after General Berger ordered the removal of all Confederate paraphernalia from Marine Corps installations, according to CNN.
General Berger’s announcement follows years of national debate over the removal of Confederate flags and monuments from parks, public squares and college campuses across the South.
In June 2015, Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina ordered that the Confederate battle flag be permanently lowered from the grounds of the State House after decades of political battles.
Four years later, Ms. Haley was criticized after she told a conservative radio host that the flag had symbolized “service, sacrifice and heritage” for some people in the state until Dylann S. Roof, who fatally shot nine African-American churchgoers in a racially motivated rampage in Charleston in 2015, “hijacked” it.
Statues and other monuments symbolizing the Old South have also been the subject of intense debate.
In November, a Confederate monument in Pittsboro, N.C., was removed from outside a courthouse where it had stood for 112 years, following months of what the chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners described as “high emotions, division and even violence.” Some cities have even gone so far as to auction off their Confederate statues.