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Photographer Says Viral Ferguson Hug Was Staged And Cropped

Portland police officer Bret Barnum, whose hug with 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a local Ferguson peaceful protest has gone viral but the officer claims he had no idea he was being photographed at the time the moment occurred.

Via Oregon Live reports:

When Barnum saw freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen’s now viral photo of the moment the next day, he was blown away.

“I had no real idea that he was crying that hard when he was on my shoulder,” Barnum said, “because my head was over the top of his and I was wearing a big helmet.”

Barnum, who has been with the Portland Police Bureau since 1993, first encountered Hart on the periphery of the Nov. 25 rally, where he saw the “Free Hugs” sign the boy was carrying and thought, “That’s a cool deal.”

The sergeant called him over, wanting to chat.

“I extended my hand, and he shook my hand,” Barnum recalled Tuesday.

“The first question I asked him,” Barnum said, “was, ‘Why are you crying?'”

The boy responded that he “was sad about the protest, kind of about national events,” Barnum recalled.

“For a kid … that’s a pretty big pill to swallow and a lot to process,” Barnum said.

“So I wanted to bring him back to a kid level.”

The protest drew thousands to downtown Portland after a grand jury decided against indicting the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed an African-American theft suspect, Michael Brown.

Barnum acknowledged the boy’s words and tried to reassure him everything was going to be OK.

“Really, all I could do was apologize. … And I just kind of sighed and said, ‘I’m sorry,'” Barnum recalled.

Well, it looks like the “iconic” image may not be as organic as the officer and media has been portraying.

Alex Riedlinger, a photographer in Portland describes what really happened the day the picture was taken and tells a very different story.

Via Walidah Marisha Tumblr:

“Here are the images of Devonte I took. The first depicts him and his guardian just prior to him approaching the officer, in my mind she seems to be coaching him though the picture does not imply this. The second was taken just before the hug and you can see as a crowd and captive audience is starting to form.

Here is a copy of what i [Alex Riedlinger] wrote earlier regarding the image of the hug circulating:

‘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.”

What do you think of the viral photo??

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