WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army wants to remove any sort of divisive symbols from military bases, potentially including Confederate flags, the Army secretary said on Thursday, suggesting that the Pentagon was close to a broader policy barring such symbols from all military installations.
A number of military services, including the Marine Corps, have already banned the display of Confederate flags even as President Donald Trump has said that flying the flag is “freedom of speech.”
“Anything that is a divisive symbol, we do want to take those of our installations and that sort of thing out of our formation,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters.
Asked if that would include specifically identifying Confederate flags as divisive symbols, McCarthy said: “We would have any divisive symbols on a no-fly list, if you will.”
He added that the Pentagon was close to a decision on a uniform policy for the different services on divisive symbols.
Trump, who has stoked racial divisions as part of his re-election campaign, has criticized the desecration and removal of statues of Confederate and other former U.S. leaders to energize his political base.
Last month, Trump rejected renaming military bases named after Confederate generals, slapping down Pentagon officials who are open to discussing the issue.
Recent social unrest has raised new questions about the flying of the Confederate battle flag in areas of the country and whether statues honoring Confederate leaders during the 1861-1865 U.S. Civil War should be removed from prominent places.
Asked on Tuesday if the flag should be “taken down,” Trump responded: “I know people that like the Confederate flag and they're not thinking about slavery.”
Last week the top U.S. general said the military had to take a “hard look” at symbols of the Confederacy, including base names.