Sixteen female African-American army cadets at the prestigious United States Military Academy in West Point, New Jersey, are under investigation after taking a photo in uniform with their fists raised, which allegedly suggests an political motive.
The investigation, headed by the West Point Academy itself, flags the raised fists as a breach of military restrictions against political activity.
The photo, which has made the rounds on social media, has led several to believe the women pictured were expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which could be seen as a violation of US Defence Department policy.
The policy in question states “members on active duty should not engage in partisan political activity,” with the narrow exception of voting and few other activities, reported The Army Times.
However, supporters claim the image simply shows solidarity from a group of soon-to-be-graduating cadets, and have suggested racial profiling as the rationale behind the academy's investigation.
A 2003 West Point graduate and now mentor Mary Tobin, agrees with these supporters, believing the photo simply shows a sense of team spirit. She likened the raised-fist to how a sports team raises their helmets after a win.
“It was a sign of unity,” Tobin told The Guardian US. “They weren’t trying to imply any allegiance to any movement.”
African-American female cadets form a very small minority at West Point. Reportedly, 70 per cent of the student population is white, and about 80 per cent are male.