We’re all familiar with the police. Violent enforcers of the law. Untouchable killers. Huggers of children? If the last statement perplexed you, you are not alone as the residents of Portland were confronted with this very scenario late last week.
Elias Tesla, a 27-year-old barista and folk troubadour, initially suspected something was up when Police Sergeant Bret Barnum started talking to 12-year-old Devonte Hart at a protest against the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. Hart, who is himself African-American, was at the protest carrying a sign offering “Free Hugs”.
“It caught my eye, that’s for sure,” Telso told The (un)Australian. “What did this policeman want with this kid? I got my phone out to videotape the encounter, just in case anything went down.”
Sergeant Barnum and Devonte discussed schooling and art, but then Barnum got on his knees and began to put his arms around the child. That’s when witnesses began to panic.
“The sergeant was much bigger than the kid and could have easily crushed him using only his arms” explained Nicola Druthers, a 32-year-old barista and punk troubadour, revealing her fears. “I mean, that sign hard sharp corners, if the sergeant had of argued he feared for his life, it would never even reach trial.”
Onlookers began to try to break up the two before realising they were not witnessing a potential police killing of an unarmed African-American child, but a genuine emotional connection between two human beings.
“I was shocked,” Telsa explained, “I had never seen anything like it before.”
“The hug seen around the world”, as it has been referred to, has already received criticism from police groups. Gabe Crocker, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, believes it sets a bad precedent.
“If this kid starts having positive experiences with police, then he’s going to begin to trust us instead of fearing us,” Crocker told The (un)Australian. “That’s a privilege white people had to earn by spending centuries as the same race as those in power. If police start serving their community no matter who is part of it, then how our we supposed to feel like big men?
“If the Portland City Police had any sense, they would shoot a surrendering African-American criminal in the next couple of days, or else who knows what kind of dystopian future where police are held accountable for their actions could be unleashed.”
As for Devonte, who knows what his future interactions with the police may be. Today he’s hugging a sympathetic sergeant, tomorrow he could be shot for carrying a legal BB-gun. It’s all part of the exciting ride that is being an African-American youth in today’s society.