US embassy in Seoul removes 'Black Lives Matter' banner

Published June 16, 2020, 7:14 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

The US embassy in South Korea on Monday removed banners celebrating Black Lives Matter and gay pride after running afoul of President Donald Trump’s administration.

A "Black Lives Matter" banner is displayed on the US embassy in Seoul -- before it was taken down (AFP Photo/Ed JONES)
A “Black Lives Matter” banner is displayed on the US embassy in Seoul — before it was taken down (AFP Photo/Ed JONES)

The embassy unfurled a banner on the building that read Black Lives Matter in solidarity with the increasingly global movement that has emerged after the killing of African American George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

In a Facebook message Saturday, the embassy said the banner “shows our support for the fight against racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to be a more inclusive & just society.”

In putting up the banner, the US ambassador to South Korea, Harry Harris, had quoted late president John F. Kennedy in saying that from “diversity we gain our strength.”

But Harris, a former top military commander, reversed his decision and ordered the banner removed “to avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations,” an embassy spokesperson said.

“This is no way lessens the principles and ideals expressed by raising the banner, and the embassy will look for other ways to convey fundamental American values in these times of difficulty at home,” the spokesperson said.

CNN, quoting an anonymous source, said that the request to take down the banner came from the office of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The embassy also took down a rainbow flag, symbol of the LGBTQ equality movement — hours before a landmark US Supreme Court decision that outlawed discrimination against workers based on sexual orientation.

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who in the past has said that he defines marriage as between a man and a woman, last year restricted the flying of rainbow flags, as some embassies had been doing each June for Pride Month, which celebrates the movement for LGBTQ equality.

Pompeo had ordered that only the US flag fly from embassy flagpoles. The pride flag in Seoul was on the building facade near the Black Lives Matter sign, not on the pole.

Trump and Pompeo have both condemned the killing of Floyd and spoken in general terms of the need to reform law enforcement.

But Trump has described himself as bringing “law and order” and vilified the protest movement.

On June 1, federal police used force to disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House so Trump could pose in front of a nearby church that had suffered vandalism.