Two days after it was hung, a Black Lives Matter banner was removed from the facade of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, after U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly expressed his desire to see it taken down.
As Reuters reported, the flag was unfurled in support of the anti-racist movement sweeping across the globe in the wake of the death of George Floyd. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris, a Trump appointee, ordered the flag to be put in place to show support for the movement.
But two anonymous sources say the president expressed displeasure with the message and it was subsequently removed.
Trump’s appointed officials have largely remained silent on the protests against racism and police brutality, making Harris’ decision all the more noteworthy. Seoul’s banner is the most overt expression of support for the movement of any of the U.S. embassies.
Embassy spokesman William Coleman explained that the flag was removed so that it didn’t appear that Harris and the embassy were supporting or encouraging donations to “any specific organization,” the Washington Post noted.
“The Ambassador decided to put the Black Lives Banner up to communicate a message of solidarity with Americans concerned with racism, especially racial violence against African Americans,” he said. “He wanted to highlight the enduring American values of racial equality, freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully protest.”
But reportedly after Trump, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saw news coverage of the two-story-tall banner hanging on the embassy, they called for its removal. Their decision is likely to be met with backlash, not only from supporters of the movement but also diplomats who are frustrated with Pompeo’s leadership.
The U.S. Embassy stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change. Our #BlackLivesMatter banner shows our support for the fight against racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to be a more inclusive & just society. pic.twitter.com/Y4Thr2MRdw
— U.S. Embassy Seoul (@USEmbassySeoul) June 13, 2020
However, the embassy was careful to clarify that it continued to support the movement.
“This in 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,” Coleman said.
Harris also expressed his support for Black Lives Matter by posting on his official Twitter account a link to the embassy’s image of the banner with a quote from former President John F. Kennedy.
“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity,” he quoted.
Trump has attempted to paint himself as the president of “law and order” in response to the protests, an echo of former President Richard Nixon’s famous campaign position. The president has called for local leaders to quell demonstrations and oversaw what some called excessive use of force, including the use of tear gas, to move protesters from Lafayette Square so that he could pose for a photo op in front of St. John’s church.