The trooper “did not engage in any white supremacy behavior, implicitly or explicitly,” police said in a statement, calling accusations to the contrary false.
The “ok” gesture—making a circle with two fingers while the other three fingers are raised—has long been used innocuously, but a prank on 4chan to dupe reporters into thinking it’s a white power hand sign has led random accusations against people using it.
The Anti-Defamation League claims that the 4chan hoax “was so successful the symbol became a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals,” who started posting pictures of themselves making it.
“Ironically, some white supremacists themselves soon also participated in such trolling tactics, lending an actual credence to those who labeled the trolling gesture as racist in nature,” the league stated, noting that in the overwhelming number of cases, the symbol is still used for its traditional purpose.
Video footage from a protest in Salem on July 4 showed the officer in question approaching a man and making the symbol as he spoke to the man. The trooper asks, “You’re good?” The man claps the trooper on the shoulder.
The Oregon State Police said it commissioned an immediate review of what happened when reports arose about the incident.
Troopers witnessed two protesters engage in an altercation, with one man knocked to the ground. The other one was arrested. The man knocked to the ground got up and began interacting with troopers.
That’s when the trooper went forward and asked if the man was okay, while making the signal.
“Best available evidence indicates the trooper was simply checking on the man’s status and used the universal signal to signify this inquiry, which the man gestured he was—then patted this trooper and a second trooper on their shoulders in an apparent signal of appreciation. The man was the victim of a crime,” Oregon State Police said in the statement.
The agency said it “condemns all racist behaviors and does not allow white supremacist behaviors by our officers and staff.”
“We appreciate that the public would be concerned and rightfully outraged if an OSP trooper were to flash an offensive gesture,” it added.
“We would share in that outrage and concern. In this instance, we would ask the public await the complete information before condemning a trooper with an irreparable and harmful label. Additionally, some members of the public are misidentifying the trooper in the video with another trooper who was working the event.”