Activists are spraying the Black Lives Matter slogan across sites honoring Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War, with the graffiti trend seemingly spurred by the growing debate about the appropriateness of Confederate iconography following the Charleston church shooting last week that left nine people died.
Photos posted on social media show Confederate landmarks from Missouri to Maryland to South Carolina defaced with graffiti and turned into canvases for activists protesting racism in the US.
As South Carolina reeled in the aftermath of the June 17 shooting, anger turned to the Confederate flag, which several Southern states have kept on their state flags or continued to fly on state grounds, despite the fact that many Americans view it as a symbol of white supremacy and slavery.
What started as social media chatter about removing the flag from state grounds eventually boiled over — prompting South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Republican presidential hopefuls, and even President Barack Obama to chime in on whether the flag should, once and for all, be relegated to museum displays. Corporations such as Walmart, Amazon, and eBay have since announced that they will stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.
The renewed conversation around the flag eventually extended to the country's memorials that celebrate the Confederacy's heroes, instigating debates over whether parks and squares should be stripped of such landmarks altogether. Dylann Roof, the alleged shooter, kept an online blog under the URL LastRhodesian.com, where he posted photos of himself posing in front of former slave plantations and confederate memorials leading up to the incident.
On Sunday, about 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered in Charleston to promote unity and peace. The event — organized by the Black Lives Matter movement — was mostly peaceful. However, some protesters took to burning the Confederate and American flags in Marion Square — a historical Charleston parade ground.
Since the protests against the Vietnam War that spread across the US during 1960s, burning the American flag has been protected under the First Amendment as a legitimate expression of free speech and protest. Organizers from the Black Lives Matter movement in Charleston issued a statement today apologizing for the flag burnings.
"We would first like to apologize for the disrespect and hurt this action has caused. We did not plan this action-many groups and individuals were present and the 'space' for protest was open for all," the statement read. "The name of the event was 'Burying White Supremacy' — what that means to different people was open for artful interpretation."