The Ferguson protests and demonstrations going on in other cities in honor of Mike Brown have garnered some iconic photos that depict many emotions and calls for action and peace. Recently, one picture surfaced that showed unity between a black child and a white officer.
In the picture, a teary-eyed 12-year-old Devonte Hart is hugging officer Brett Barnum during a demonstration in Portland, OR. Hart was carrying a sign that said he was giving out free hugs. The touching picture can evoke much emotion and spark unity, but what if it was fake?
Oregon photographer Alex Reidlinger told the Visionary Futures that the pictures is cropped so it doesn’t show the photographers waiting to capture the staged photo. Riedlinger snapped these two pics before Hart hugged Barnum.
In the first picture, Riedlinger says Hart is talking to his guardian before he approached Barnum and the second photo shows photographers preparing to snap the arranged moment.
Here’s what Riedlinger told Visionary Futures about what he saw:
“The cropping of an image is everything when it comes to its subjectivity and the way ideas are projected unto it.
Every picture I’ve seen of this crops out the circus of photographers that surrounded these two creating a captive audience. With such a captive audience I can’t really say that the officer did anything that his superiors wouldn’t have told him to do. They were there just as much for public relations as to keep the peace otherwise the dept. wouldn’t have sent every queer looking, POC and female cop on the force.
The way this image has been propagandized is highly disturbing to me because it distracts from the real issues. This has never been about the relationship between individual officers and young Black men, but about the way in which our institutions and society protect cops, granting them license to use lethal force in ANY circumstance. Whether they do use it or decide to demonstrate “love” is irrelevant.’
I would like to add that Devonte was crying before approaching the officer while he was talking to his guardian, presumably because he was terrified. This brings the question of coercion to my mind, but I’ll let ya’ll debate over it.”