The U.S. State Department under President Joe Biden is encouraging its offices and employees to display Black Lives Matter messaging on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death in police custody on May 25, 2020, according to a memo reported by Human Events on Monday.
The memo, reportedly provided by a source within the State Department who requested anonymity, said that all U.S. “Diplomatic and Consular posts” are encouraged to display shows of support for Black Lives Matter on Tuesday, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death.
The memo states, “This cable constitutes a blanket written authorization for calendar year 2021 from the Under Secretary for Management (M) to display the BLM flag on the external-facing flagpole to any Chiefs of Mission who determine such a display is appropriate in light of local conditions.” The memo is addressed to “ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS.”
While leaving the display of BLM flags to the discretion of chiefs of diplomatic missions who determine the displays to be appropriate, the memo states, “We encourage posts to focus on the need to eliminate systemic racism and its continued impact.”
A State Department spokesperson told American Military News that the department doesn’t comment “on the authenticity or veracity of allegedly leaked documents.”
Messaging from official government offices must adhere to the Hatch Act, which prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in political activity while carrying out their normal government work. The memo addresses the Hatch Act provisions by describing “BLM-related activity” as non-political.
The memo states, “The ‘Hatch Act generally allows employees to engage in BLM-related activity while on duty or in the workplace. But, as described below, employees are still prohibited from combining BLM-related activity with ‘political activity’ while on duty or in the workplace and from engaging in partisan political fundraising in connection with BLM-related organizations. ‘Political activity’ is an ‘activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”
While the memo has determined BLM-related activity to be non-political messaging, the organization known as Black Lives Matter frequently advocates for specific policies and has issued statements critical of political parties and candidates.
Following the Democrat-controlled House of Representative’s decision in January to impeach President Donald Trump, the organization known as Black Lives Matter said, “President Trump has been a threat to our democracy well before he took office four years ago, and today’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives confirms he is a dangerous man who will not act in the best interests of the people. We now urge the U.S. Senate to convict and remove him from office — no matter how many days remain in his term — so he may never again hold elective office or be a menace to our country. Republicans in Congress have tolerated, and even enabled, his violent and divisive rhetoric for far too long.”
The organization BLM has also issued statements in support of Democrat-led efforts to grant statehood to Washington D.C. In May the group said, “D.C. residents literally have no say in Congress. That’s why it’s on us, who do have voting members of Congress, to speak up and demand our people in D.C. get the representation they deserve.” The group known as Black Lives Matter also sells “Black Lives Matter” flags and its merchandise shop state’s “Proceeds from the official #BLMshop help fund the movement.”
The memo frequently capitalizes “Black Lives Matter,” and it’s unclear whether the State Department supports the generic statement that “black lives matter” or advocates the group Black Lives Matter, which has made repeated political statements and has advocated in support of specific policy outcomes, such as impeaching a Republican president. The memo does call BLM “an umbrella term for a constellation of ideas, objectives, and groups” adding, “There is no ‘leader’ of the BLM movement. Rather, there are numerous organizations that use BLM terminology to varying degrees, including some whose names include the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter.’”
While the reported State Department memo suggests the view that support for Black Lives Matter is not necessarily political activity, the Air Force recently ordered the removal of a photo of a flag associated with another statement, “Blue Lives Matter.” This month, Ramstein Air Base said it removed a photo of uniformed airmen flying a pro-police “Thin Blue Line” flag, also known as a “Blue Lives Matter” or “Police Lives Matter” flag, that was flown during a ruck march in honor of National Police Week. The base apologized for the move and said the photo violated Defense Department policy regarding the types of flags that are permitted to be flown on U.S. bases.
Black Lives Matter signage was flown outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea last June before it was abruptly removed. While it is unclear why the signage was removed at the time, reports from Bloomberg and CNN, citing people familiar with the matter, said the banner was taken down after it was brought to the attention of then-President Donald Trump and then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.