Photo of West Point cadets with fists in the air sparks investigation

WEST POINT, New York (WABC) -- They raised their fists, and now a salute is sparking controversy.

West Point is investigating after a picture of female cadets in an apparent Black Lives Matter salute began circulating online, with critics claiming the cadets violated military policies.

The photograph features 16 female cadets with 16 fists and two swords raised in the air, prompting an investigation to determine the meaning of the gesture. An online post entitled "Racism within West Point" says the cadets have violated Army policy that forbids political expression while in uniform.

It is unclear when the picture was taken, but it's clearly outside of Academy barracks.

"An inquiry into this matter is currently ongoing," a West Point spokesperson said in a statement. "We can confirm that the cadets in this photo are members of the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2016."

Richard O'Donnell is a veteran who disagrees with the presumed political display, but he isn't quite ready to do what many online have demanded -- that the women be dismissed from the academy.

"You should abide by the rules, I mean, you know what you're getting into before you even came," he said. "I don't know about expulsion, but you were what you were coming into when you signed the oath."

As for any potential discipline, the investigation will likely move quickly. The cadets are scheduled to graduate in two weeks.
Copyright © 2020 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.