Ever since a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, protests around the country have been tense. That said, one photo that has recently gone viral shows that it is possible to overcome the controversy we have seen and heard about in recent days.
Oregon-based Freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen caught a beautiful moment between Portland Police Sergeant Bret Barnum and 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a demonstration earlier this week. The boy decided to show up that the protests with a sign that read “Free Hugs” in an effort to help spread love, and thankfully, Nguyen snapped the photo at the perfect moment.
Sgt. Barnum told The Oregonian that he saw Hart holding the sign and decided to spark up a conversation with him. By the end of the talk, Barnum reportedly asked the boy, “Do I get one of those?” The emotional hug was caught on camera and now speaks volumes to the issue of police distrust that has sparked the nationwide movement.
In an emotional Facebook post, Hart’s mothers Jennifer and Sarah told the story behind the now famous photo.
"We hit the streets (Nov. 25) with the intention of spreading love and kindness, and to remind (ALL) people that they matter in this world. ... I noticed Devonte was struggling. Tears,” the post began. “He wouldn't speak. He was inconsolable. My son has a heart of a gold, compassion beyond anything I've ever experienced, yet struggles with living fearlessly when it comes to the police and people that don't understand the complexity of racism that is prevalent in our society. It was one of the most emotionally charged experiences I've had as a mother. He trembled holding a Free Hugs sign as he bravely stood alone in front of the police barricade. Tears rushing from his eyes and soaking his sweater, he gazed upon them not knowing how they would react. After a while, one of the officers approached him and extended his hand. Their interaction was uncomfortable at first. ... There were generic questions about his favorite subject and what he liked to do in the summer, but the one that mattered hit straight to the heart. He asked Devonte why he was crying. His response about his concerns regarding the level of police brutality towards young black kids was met with an unexpected and seemingly authentic (to Devonte), 'Yes. *sigh* I know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.' The officer then asked if he could have one of his hugs.”
Since the photo was first posted on Facebook, it has already garnered over 150,000 shares. Devonte Hart is already noted for being an active advocate for peace and has been profiled for his "Free Hugs" campaign.