Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Monday reversed his stance on renaming U.S. Army bases currently named for Confederate leaders and is now reportedly “open” to renaming them.
“The Secretary of the Army is open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic,” Army spokesperson Colonel Sunset Belinsky told Politico.
The reversal comes on the heels of the U.S. Marines’ decision to ban the display of the Confederate flag on its military bases, including on bumper stickers, clothing, and coffee mugs. The ban was made official on Friday.
“The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps,” the Marines said in a statement. “Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society.”
Some of the white supremacist protesters who demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia during the summer of 2017 sported Confederate flag paraphernalia as they protested the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. The protests turned violent, and one white supremacist protester purposefully rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman.
The Army previously said in February that it had no plans to rename the nearly dozen major bases and facilities named in honor of Confederate leaders. However, the service branch has faced pressure more recently to rename some of its military installations, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, and Fort Benning in Georgia.
The reversal comes amid national protests and riots over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for close to nine minutes until after Floyd passed out. Both peaceful protests against police brutality as well as riots and looting have broken out in metropolitan areas around the country in the wake of Floyd’s death.