Black Lives Matter banner removed at US Embassy in Seoul

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In this June 14, 2020 photo, U.S. flag flutters next to a giant Black Lives Matter banner at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. The banner has been removed from the U.S. Embassy building in South Korea's capital three days after it was raised there in solidarity with protesters back home.(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL – A large Black Lives Matter banner was quietly removed from the U.S. Embassy building in South Korea's capital three days after it was raised there in solidarity with demonstrators protesting against racial inequality back home.

The official explanation from the embassy, which didn't mention an LGBT pride flag that was also removed from the building, was that the Black Lives Matter banner was removed to avoid any perception that it was meant “to support or encourage donations to any specific organization.”

The decision drew criticism from some activists in Seoul. It will likely be controversial amid the ongoing global debate over racial inequality that has followed the death of George Floyd.

The banner was put up on Saturday with Ambassador Harry Harris tweeting that his embassy “stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change.”

The banner was taken down Monday. along with the rainbow pride flag. On Tuesday, a banner marking the upcoming 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War was draped from the embassy.

Lee Tae-ho, an activist with the Seoul-based civic organization People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, called the abrupt banner removal regrettable, saying its presence was “a very positive thing that could improve the U.S. image and help resolve the problem.”

The banner removal comes amid large U.S. protests that began after Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into his neck at length as he lay face down and handcuffed.

Harris “wanted to highlight the enduring American values of racial equality, freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully protest,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. “However, the Ambassador’s intent was not to support or encourage donations to any specific organization. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations, he directed that the banner be removed.”