The false claim that they are “anthem protests” also implies that protesting police violence is inconsistent with patriotism. In fact, African-Americans have a long history of staging protests during the national anthem because of a deep understanding and internalization of the anthem’s patriotic significance.
In 1892, at a meeting in a Chicago A.M.E. church after a lynching in Memphis, a pastor asked the 1,000 black people in the audience to sing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” the de facto national anthem of the time. But everyone refused. One man argued, “I don’t want to sing that song until this country is what it claims to be, ‘sweet land of liberty.’”