Is It Okay To Protest In Your Military Uniform?

September 23, 2016  |  


For the most part, Black folk are in support of the athletes following in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps and protesting the national anthem. After all, he is an American citizen, a Black man, and entitled to freedom of speech. And as Marshawn Lynch so eloquently put it, “I’d rather see him take a knee than stand, with his hands up and get murdered.”

Naturally, there are some people who oppose his decision. And 9 times out of 10 when they speak about their dissension, they reference the belief that his protest is disrespectful to members of the military.

But what about when a officer in the Navy decides to protest the national anthem?… in uniform.

That’s what Janaye Ervin did. The U.S. Navy reservist said, in a Facebook post, that “while in uniform, I made a conscious decision not to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner” because I feel like a hypocrite, singing about the ‘land of the free’ when I know that only applies to some Americans.”

As a result, Ervin said she was punished and equipment necessary for her job was taken away from her. Although Ervin didn’t include this in her post, other reports have indicated that she may have been threatened with jail time.

Here’s what her full Facebook post said.

For the most part, the response to Janaye’s protest is being well-received. People are calling her brave and courageous. They’re commending her for standing up in an environment where her actions may not be well-received. Her story has been shared over a thousand times, including activist Shaun King.

But when we asked a Petty Officer in the United States Navy, a Black woman, about Ervin’s protest, she didn’t share the same sentiment.

“There is a law written in the Uniform Code of Military Justice forbidding protest in uniform. It brings discredit upon the military to stand in uniform and blatantly disregard the national anthem. As a civilian it is understood. You have no obligation to patriotism. In this uniform you do. The national anthem is OUR anthem and how we pay respect to those who have served and died in this uniform. I feel as though when you wear this uniform, you are to respect this uniform. Period. People wake up away from their loved ones working long days, missing holidays, birthdays, funerals and are dying because they are wearing this uniform. By all means, stand up for what you believe in. Protest all you want. But exclude this uniform while you are doing it. This uniform has nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter campaign. The display of her position could have been done in a million different ways. (Like getting out if you don’t want anything to do with the government) I guess what I’m saying is, you don’t need to be disrespectful to protest.”

What do you think about Ervin’s protest? Is she changing the game and the status quo or is violating the rules she vowed to uphold, a problem?

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”

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