The 16 black female cadets who posed with raised fists in a graduation photo at West Point have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The photo went viral, with some claiming the women were making a political statement with the gesture, but a West Point inquiry has found that “the photo was among several taken in the spur-of-the-moment,” and was not a premeditated political statement.
“It was intended to demonstrate ‘unity’ and ‘pride,’ according to the findings of the inquiry,” a statement from West Point read.
Initially, some thought that the cadets were showing solidarity with a political movement, which would violate Department of Defence Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.
The directive says active members of the armed forces “should not engage in partisan political activity” and even nonactive members “should avoid inferences that their political activities imply or appear to imply official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement.”
As cadets in the US Military Academy, the women are considered to be active members of the armed forces and therefore barred from making political statements.
However West Point has concluded that “none of the participants, through their actions, intended to show support for a political movement.”
Of the investigation, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr, the academy’s superintendent said in a letter,”As members of the Profession of Arms, we are held to a high standard, where our actions are constantly observed and scrutinised in the public domain … We all must understand that a symbol or gesture that one group of people may find harmless may offend others.”
“As Army officers, we are not afforded the luxury of a lack of awareness of how we are perceived,” continued Caslen.
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