West Point Cadets Won't Be Punished for Raised-Fist Photo, Will Receive 'Instruction'

Posted: May 11, 2016 11:25 AM

The photo showing 16 African-American female cadets raising clenched fists at the United States Military Academy did not break the code of conduct according to Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., West Point's superintendent.

He said, they showed "a lapse of awareness in how symbols and gestures can be misinterpreted and cause division," and they will receive instruction to address "their intent versus the impact of the photo."

When the news broke earlier this week, many inside the academy were alarmed that such activity had taken place.

“There’s a tradition at West Point for seniors where they pose and they have a very stoic look on their face intended to be a throwback to the old days,” Anthony Lombardo, editor of the Army Times told ABC News. “What makes this photo different is everyone is kind of doing the pose but then there is the clenched fist in the air. If these men and women are in uniform, and they’re making a political statement, they could afoul of the Defense Department regulation, and they could be in serious trouble for that.” 

However, Mary Tobin, a graduate of the academy and mentor to some of the women, said the pose had nothing to do with politics.

"They weren't doing it to be aligned with any particular movement or any particular party," Tobin said, referring to their completion of four years at West Point. "We did it and we did it together," she referred.   

According to Army Command Policy, including cadets at the academy, may "register, vote, and express their personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Army."