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A touching photo that captures a helmeted white police officer hugging a teary-eyed 12-year-old African-American boy at a Ferguson shooting protest in Oregon has gone viral on social media.
Freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen snapped the picture when Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum and 12-year-old Devonte Hart embraced at a Nov. 25 rally protesting the decision of a Missouri grand jury not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teen Michael Brown.
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. 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.