Victoria Police have refuted claims a police officer was throwing a symbol of white supremacy during yesterday’s clash with protesters.
Photos of the officer throwing the ‘okay’ sign – which was officially listed as a hate symbol last month – circulated widely on Twitter.
However, police said they’ve spoken to the officer in question and “confirmed he was signalling ‘are you okay’ to two protesters” who were in the crowd outside a global mining conference in Melbourne and were “looking unwell”.
“The protest activity is extremely dynamic with megaphones, sirens and loud chanting making it difficult to hear so hand signals are often used,” police said in a statement.
“Any suggestion to indicate the officer was signalling anything else is completely untrue and Victoria Police considers this matter closed.”
Police did not respond to additional questions from PEDESTRIAN.TV over footage circulating of what appears to be the same officer allegedly punching a woman in the back of the head by the time of publication.
— Glenn Todd ☀ (@glentodd) October 30, 2019
The okay symbol, which can be traced back to white supremacist links as early as 2015 but festered for years in the cursed depths of 4chan, was officially declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in September.
However, the ADL noted its “overwhelming usage” was still of a hand gesture to show approval or that someone is okay, and that “particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture”.
It comes amid heavy criticism of police response to the climate protests, which have seen pepper spray and mounted officers deployed to break up protesters outside the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC).
The okay symbol – which found new life as a 4chan hoax in 2017 – has been adopted by far right personalities including open white supremacist Richard Spencer, alt right YouTuber Lauren Southern, and alleged Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant.
Tonight's the night. pic.twitter.com/grvpHKVAn6
— Richard ???? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) November 8, 2016
It’s a purposefully ordinary hand gesture used by various alt-right and adjacent figures to signal their like-mindedness to others, Online Hate Prevention Institute CEO Andre Oboler said earlier this year.
“Its very purpose is to fly under the radar and send a message: ‘There’s more of us than you know’,” Oboler said.
“It’s a message to empower and embolden the faithful while being just ordinary enough to make those calling it out jump at shadows.”Image: Twitter / Nicola Paris