British military banned from ‘taking the knee’ in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests

British military are banned from ‘taking the knee’ in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests after commanders said it was too political

  • Ministry of Defence has stopped British forces personnel from ‘taking the knee’
  • Commanders worried the show of solidarity with BLM protests is too ‘political’
  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says armed forces should reset ‘woeful’ record on discrimination

British servicemen and women have been banned from ‘taking the knee’ because the act has become too ‘political’, it is claimed.

The Ministry of Defence have told uniformed forces personnel that they should not perform the symbolic gesture which is used to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

It is believed that commanders from at least one of branches of HM Armed Forces are worried that allowing officers to take the knee would cause political issues following mass protests on streets across the country.

But the view jars with Chief of the Defence Staff Nick Carter’s promise, in a letter to all commanders, to take action to stamp out racism from the ranks. 

The Ministry of Defence have told uniformed forces personnel that they should not perform the symbolic gesture which is used to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement

And the move may cause division within lower ranks as well, with BAME officers and others who already support the movement unlikely to stop because of political concerns.

‘Stopping racism isn’t political,’ Ben McBean, a black Royal Marine who lost limbs in Afghanistan, told the Sun.

He added that troops who believed #BlackLivesMatter would do it anyway and suffer the punishments.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘The MOD does a not tolerate racism and promotes diversity and equality. The recent protests have reminded us that we all have a role to play shaping a better society.’

Taking the knee has however proved controversial, with two Metropolitan Police officers criticised for kneeling outside Downing Street in front of BLM protestors.

Taking the knee has however proved controversial, with two Metropolitan Police officers criticised for kneeling outside Downing Street in front of BLM protestors

Taking the knee has however proved controversial, with two Metropolitan Police officers criticised for kneeling outside Downing Street in front of BLM protestors

Kent Police's chief constable Alan Pughsley took the knee at a BLM event recently

Kent Police’s chief constable Alan Pughsley took the knee at a BLM event recently

While largely peaceful at the time, the event later descended into chaos as projectiles were thrown over the gates at Number 10 and several officers were chased and injured on Whitehall.

Following the incident, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was among the first in Cabinet to discuss taking a knee, referring to it as something ‘from the Game of Thrones’ and ‘like a symbol of subjugation’.

Downing Street later said Mr Raab was giving a ‘personal opinion’ when he said taking a knee was a symbol of subjugation. 

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the armed forces needed to ‘reset’ their ‘woeful’ record on discrimination against black and minority ethnic personnel.

The Cabinet minister told The House magazine that his own department had historically ‘not done well enough’ in either recruiting or welcoming people from a black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

And Mr Wallace said: ‘From a purely selfish point of view, by not having more BAME personnel, not having more women, we are losing the opportunity to have some great talent. So it’s really, really important that this is stopped, crushed, got rid of, and we have to double our efforts.’  

What are the origins of ‘taking the knee’? 

The ‘taking the knee’ protest was started in 2016 by American football player Colin Kaepernick. He famously knelt for the US national anthem before playing for the San Francisco 49ers, to demonstrate against police brutality. 

He is believed to have taken the idea from how the US military honour fallen comrades. 

Kaepernick said at the time: ‘I am not going to get up to show pride in a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.

‘To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.’ 

The action was hugely controversial in the US, with critics including Donald Trump saying it disrespected soldiers and the flag. 

However, it spread more widely across US sports over the following years. 

It was initially tolerated by the NFL, before an edict was issued in 2018 insisting all players on the field during  the national anthem must stand.

That ban was overturned earlier this month following outrage over George Floyd’s death. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodel said: ‘We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.’  

Many believe it destroyed Kaepernick’s career – he has not played a game since his contract ended in 2017. 

It has been widely adopted around the world following George Floyd’s death, with police officers in the UK joining in with the action in public.

It was also used by Premier League footballers before matches last night. 

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