Cub Scout Pack 451 in Durham, N.C., was invited to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at city hall, and 10-year-old Liam Holmes did not hesitate.
As the group began to recite the pledge Monday, Liam, a fifth-grader, dropped to his knee in a silent protest. It was a style he had seen made popular by National Football League players, placing his hand over his heart. The striking display of solidarity from the 10-year-old, which was reported by the local CBS affiliate, WNCN, and is captured on the city’s video recording of the meeting, drew a flurry of media coverage.
Liam explained his motivation for the protest in an interview with the television station.
“What I did was took a knee against racial discrimination,” he said, “which is basically [when] people are mean to other people of different colors.”
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel began the meeting by thanking the boy.
“To the Scout that expressed his conscience by kneeling, we will say that we endorse and appreciate all expressions of conscience in the Durham City Council,” said Schewel, a Democrat.
Liam’s father, Scott, told CBS 17 that his son had talked with him about the protest beforehand. But Scott said he wasn’t sure whether his son would follow through with the idea.
“When he did it, I was really surprised, but also really proud,” he told the station. He declined an interview with The Washington Post, and had told the Raleigh News & Observer on Wednesday that the family was overwhelmed by the media coverage.
The decision to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem has been a lightning rod for discussion the past few years after Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began doing so to protest police shootings of unarmed black men. It spread through the NFL and took on intense political and cultural dimensions as it reverberated through the country’s partisan media echo chambers. President Trump issued repeated verbal broadsides against those who took part.
The issue has since faded from the forefront of the national conversation but remains a sensitive issue: CBS 17 included the comments of a veteran and former Scout who had contacted the organization after it covered Liam’s protest to express his displeasure with it.
“I just don’t understand why it has to be during the Pledge of Allegiance,” the man, Brandon LaRoque, told the news outlet.
A reporter, anticipating the response that the outlet’s story would cause, had asked Liam to respond to people who might not support his actions.
“Well, those people just don’t listen,” the 10-year-old said.