The Oregon State Police on Sunday cleared a trooper who appeared to make a white power symbol during a Black Lives Matter protest in Salem, Oregon, over the weekend.
In a statement, authorities said the trooper made the gesture after seeing a skirmish during the event at the Oregon Capitol on Saturday. He was checking on a man who had been knocked to the ground, police said.
Footage of the protest, which was streamed live on social media, shows a trooper observing counter-protesters during the demonstration. The officer then walks towards one of the counter-protesters and flashes the “OK” hand gesture, which is used among extremist circles to signal “white power,” according to the Anti Defamation League. The counter-protester is then seen patting the officer on the back.
NBC News is not publishing or linking to the video to avoid providing a platform to apparent expressions of hate or white supremacy.
The Oregon State Police said the trooper used his hands because he was wearing a face covering and working in a noisy environment.
“Best available evidence indicates the trooper was simply checking on the man’s status and used the universal signal to signify this inquiry, which the man gestured he was — then patted this trooper and a second trooper on their shoulders in an apparent signal of appreciation,” police said.
Authorities added that the man was the victim of an alleged crime. The protester who allegedly pushed him, Christopher Davis, 50, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and harassment, police said.
According to the protester who caught the interaction on camera, Joe Smothers, some of the counter-protesters may have been associated with the far right organization the Proud Boys, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Proud Boys and the armed militia planned to disrupt the protest and have been putting out a call to arms for the past week,” said Smothers, 20, who was demonstrating in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Members of the Proud Boys had been flashing the “OK” sign throughout the day, Smothers added.
It is not the first time that a police officer has been caught flashing the hate symbol during demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd. The NYPD opened an investigation after an officer appeared to make the symbol during a protest in June.