Republican lawmakers have introduced a proposal that would prohibit U.S. embassies and consulates from flying “political” flags, such as those associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, after a number of diplomatic missions displayed the BLM flag on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Called the Stars and Stripes Act of 2021 (pdf), the measure was introduced by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by a number of GOP members of Congress, including new Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
“Our beautiful American flag should fly over our U.S. embassies around the world—not the flag of a political organization founded by Marxists,” Stefanik said in a statement, referring to the reported links between BLM founders and Marxism.
A number of U.S. embassies and consulates flew the BLM flag on May 25, the anniversary of Floyd’s death, following authorization from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The U.S. consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece, for example, raised the BLM flag on its official flagpole just under the U.S. national flag, saying in a statement that the move was to honor Floyd and “stand in solidarity with other nations to advance racial justice, a key priority within U.S. foreign policy.”
We raise this flag to mark one year since the murder of George Floyd – we honor Mr. Floyd and stand in solidarity with other nations to advance racial justice, a key priority within U.S. foreign policy #BLM pic.twitter.com/IdApjPaJYR
— US Consulate Thess (@USConsulateThes) May 25, 2021
The U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece, posted a video showing the BLM flag obscuring the official embassy seal.
We raise this banner in honor of George Floyd, murdered one year ago today, in solidarity with people around the globe seeking a world without racial discrimination and a future with equal opportunity for all. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/cVIkfH5Yra
— U.S. Embassy Athens (@USEmbassyAthens) May 25, 2021
The Biden administration has made “racial equity” and support for underserved communities a national security priority, with a State Department memo (pdf), first reported on by Foreign Policy several days ahead of the anniversary of Floyd’s death, reinforcing this objective as the context for authorizing the display of BLM flags.
“This effort is a top priority for the Administration’s domestic and foreign policy; the United States cannot credibly message on human rights abroad if it does not address these same issues at home,” the memo reads.
The document gave chiefs of U.S. diplomatic missions permission to display BLM flags and banners during calendar year 2021, if “appropriate in light of local conditions,” noting that this “is an authorization, not a requirement.”
“The Department supports the use of the term ‘Black Lives Matter’ in messaging content, speeches, and other diplomatic engagements with foreign audiences to advance racial equity and access to justice on May 25 and beyond,” the memo states. “We encourage posts to focus on the need to eliminate systemic racism and its continued impact.”
The GOP bill would ban the display of any flags or banners at any U.S. diplomatic or consular posts with the exception of six: the flag of the United States; the flag of the country where the post is located; the flag of a U.S. state or territory; a departmental or secretarial flag; the flag of an armed force of the United States; and a flag meant to honor prisoners of war or those designated as missing-in-action.
“It is inappropriate for President Biden and Secretary Blinken to authorize and encourage the display of inherently political flags that are in no way affiliated with the U.S. Government over American embassies overseas,” Malliotakis said in a statement.
“The American flag is a beacon of freedom and hope for oppressed peoples around the world; it should be the primary flag flown above our embassies and that is what my legislation seeks to accomplish.”