An Oregon police officer was freed from any wrongdoing after a video appeared showing a sign saying “White Power” during a protest against Black Lives Matter on July 4th.
The Department of Oregon State Police announced that it has launched an investigation into the disturbing allegations after the footage was released to social media.
The video shows at least six Oregon officials between supporters of Black Lives Matter and a group of counter-demonstrators during a peaceful demonstration in Salem on Saturday.
The accused officer appears to be approaching a counter-protester before making an OK sign – he links his left thumb and index finger while extending his remaining three fingers.
A counter-protester then gives the officer a likeable slap on the back.
The gesture has recently been linked to the white power movement, but the Oregon chief of police now insist that the officer check whether the man is doing well after appearing to have been knocked over in an argument.
The protester has been accused of being a member of Proud Boys on social media, but this has not been confirmed.
The caption read: “Tell me again how wrong the police are when no one looks at an Oregon police officer who shows a white electricity sign to a proud boy he is obviously friends with.”
The hand symbol, which was once harmless and usually meant “OK”, was originally associated with “white power” as an online joke, but has since been adopted by racist marginal figures.
“By 2019, at least some white supremacists appear to have given up the ironic or satirical intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy,” said the Anti-Defamation League.
An Oregon state police officer has been accused of waving his hand in white power during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Salem, Oregon
The counter-protester was identified as a member of the Proud Boys on social media, but this has not been confirmed
However, the ambiguity of the gesture is part of the appeal to extremists.
Joe Smothers, the 20-year-old man who captured the moment on film, told NBC News that some of the counter-protesters may have joined the Proud Boys hate group.
“Proud boys and the armed militia were planning to disrupt the protest and have armed for the past week,” Smothers said.
He added that the members of Proud Boys had been flashing the white hand gesture all day.
Authorities said the incident occurred after a counter-protester was knocked down by another man during the demonstration
Protests against racial injustice and police brutality have sparked in the United States after law enforcement officers killed George Floyd and other black Americans, including Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain.
As a result, the law enforcement agency went into crisis when the Americans should re-examine the role of police officers in community surveillance.
The footage of the alleged “white power” incident was shown in more than 2.5 million views and prompted officials to launch a brief investigation into the matter.
The department, which reports The Oregonian to 93 percent in white, later claimed that the “White Power” hand signal was a misunderstanding.
The authorities released pictures of body cameras to refute speculation.
They said the officer flashed the hand signal to make sure the counter-protester was okay after the fall
“The OSP soldier identified in the video implicitly or explicitly did not commit white dominance behavior,” wrote the department.
They said the incident started when two men got into a dispute during the demonstration and a counter-protester was thrown on the floor.
The officer reportedly checked that the man under attack was fine and flashed the hand signal.
“An OSP soldier approached the man and asked if he was unharmed – and at the same time displayed the hand signal that is usually associated with” okay “,” wrote the department.
“The best evidence available suggests that the soldier merely checked the status of the man and used the universal signal to identify this investigation the man was gesturing. Then he patted that soldier and a second soldier on their shoulders to give him a pat to get an obvious signal of appreciation. ”
How the OK sign was associated with white supremacy
The historical hand signal for OK – touching the index finger to the thumb with the other three raised fingers – is a formerly innocent symbol that was recently co-opted by the far right.
Racist co-opting of the symbol started as a joke on the extreme right-wing messaging site 4Chan – where users made an innocent gesture and acted as if there was some hidden meaning behind it, hoping to provoke leftist people to outrage.
But the joke escalated and soon the symbol became widespread among right-wing extremists, leading some people to believe that it had changed its meaning.
The ‘OK’ hand gesture (left) is now sometimes associated with white domination, despite its normally innocent meaning. Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man who was arrested for killing 51 people in New Zealand mosques earlier this year, makes the gesture to court in March
The conservative Viner Pizza Party Ben and former pin-up boy Milo Yiannopoulos from Alt-Right made the gesture for Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
The white supremacist Richard Spencer lit up the sign on the election night 2016 in front of a Trump hotel with the heading “Tonight’s the night”.
The symbol continued to be used, including allegedly by White House intern Jack Breuer in 2017, who made the OK sign on his class photo and claimed to have copied the President’s gesture while touching the index finger and thumb while speaking .
The popular emoji was registered as a hate symbol by the US-based Anti-Defamation League, but the group warned that it is still “predominantly” used to show approval or that someone is fine.
Others use it as part of a “circular game” created on the US television show Malcolm in the Middle, in which someone makes the gesture and holds it under the waist. If someone else looks at it, they get a slap in the arm.
The footage of the police body camera shows a counter-protester being pushed and falling to the ground.
Authorities said Christopher Davis, 50, of Salem, was arrested after the incident for disorderly behavior and harassment.
This is not the first time in recent weeks that a police officer has been accused of blinking the white power sign.
An investigation was launched in June after a New York police officer was caught in front of the camera and made the OK sign.
In 2019, officials at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis opened an investigation after several cadets and midshipmen saw the shield flash in the Army-Navy football game.
Pictured: Supporters of Black Lives Matter demonstrate in Portland, Oregon on July 4th
Rita Castillo waves to Black Lives Matter protesters as they walk past their home in Springfield, Oregon on Friday, June 27th
Law enforcement has been subjected to intensive scrutiny in recent months. City officials have cut budgets in several departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the New York Police Department.
The Minneapolis Police Department was abolished after city council members voted in a 12-0 landslide victory.
The focus on law enforcement, especially police brutality and excessive violence, has become a controversial debate among Americans.