There’s been a lot of tension, violence, and hatred in the wake of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. Fortunately, there have also been a few beautiful moments. A photographer captured an emotional hug between a police officer and a protester this weekend.
According to Oregon Live, 12-year-old Devonte Hart brought a “free hugs” sign to a rally in Portland, Oregon. The sign caught the attention of Police Sgt. Bret Barnum.
Barnum reportedly stopped the young man to talk about the protest and at the end of the conversation he pointed to Hart’s sign and said: “Do I get one of those?”
And then this happened.
Photographer Johnny Nguyen writes on Instagram: “I want to thank everyone who shared my photo today!!! You guys are playing a great role in spreading the message of hope and humanity as seen here in the photo of Sgt. Barnum and Devonte Hart.”
Devonte’s mother shared a little more information about the “hug heard round the world” on Facebook.
She writes: “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.”