West Point Women Who Raised Fists in Photo Under Investigation

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Over the past few weeks, a photo of a graduating group of female cadets at the West Point Military Academy posing with their fists raised in the air has caused quite a bit of controversy. When the photo of the sixteen African-American women started circulating on social media and reminding some of the Black Lives Matter movement, officials at the school as well as the public, reacted.

That many college students engage in political activity is a rule rather than a exception, but at a military academy this is strictly prohibited due to the sense of unity and camaraderie the schools try to foster. The Black Lives Matter movement has in some cases been associated with violent protests, and is certainly political, which is not something a military school wants to be associated with.

Since April 28, the school has been investigating whether the women violated the rules for expressing political opinions when wearing a uniform, although it’s important to note the girls have a lot of supporters. But the question is whether a raised fist really means that they are trying to show support for a political movement, or if it was just an expression of happiness and that they are looking forward to graduation. Former West Point student Mary Tobin, who is now a mentor for some of the girls, said that for them the gesture just signifies pride, sisterhood–and Beyoncé. Read her open letter about the situation here.

But as military veteran John Burk told the New York Times, “it’s not the fact that they are wrong for having their beliefs, it’s the fact they did it while in uniform.” He has previously had to discipline soldiers for raising their arms in the Nazi salute, and doesn’t feel like this is too different, despite being a very different political movement. The whole business of investigating the women has sparked online reactions claiming racism, and questioning why schools don’t deal with alleged sexual assaults as quickly as a viral photo. But it’s still unclear what will happen to the girls–a spokesperson for the school said it’s not yet determined whether or not the inquiry will lead to any disciplinary action.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



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