Twelve-year-old Devonte Hart and Bret Barnum, a police sergeant from Portland, Oregon, were photographed sharing an emotional hug in the aftermath of the Darren Wilson verdict. The image went viral throughout the internet as a prime example of what is needed as racial tensions reach a peak across the United States. Barnum was interviewed and asked his thoughts about what he thinks the problem is in regards the recent unrest in Ferguson.
Devonte Hart, a 12-year old African American boy, was standing on a street in Portland with a sign that read “Free Hugs” as many looked on. Portland Police Sergeant Bret Barnum saw the sign, approached Hart, and as they embraced, a picture was taken. The photo was a snapshot of the innocent unity between the two, as a tear fell down the face of the young boy. Sgt. Bret Barnum discussed this issue during a November 30 interview on CNN.
Barnum was asked how he ended up meeting with Hart, to which he responded that he noticed the boy during a peaceful protest in Ferguson. Barnum, noticing Hart crying, motioned for him to come over. As the two began to speak, Barnum and Hart engaged in some casual chitchat, while Hart’s mother snapped a few photos.
When asked why he did what he did, Barnum humbly responded, “there are thousands of kids in Devonte’s situation, there are thousands of police officers that do what I did the other day.” Barnum also noted that “the silent majority of the community believe in the good work that the police officers do.” Barnum said he hopes that the protesters can continue to assemble in a peaceful manner in expressing their right to free speech. When speaking about the rioters, Barnum wasn’t so kind.
“I just hope that those folks who are creating the chaos and doing the damage to their communities realize that they’re setting everything back. All the hard work that police officers and community members are doing trying to come together and build those relationships, it’s the silent, smaller entity that is really detracting from the larger picture and the change that folks want.”
Following the announcement that Darren Wilson would not be indicted on charges of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, rioters looted local businesses, tossed around rocks and glass bottles, while burning stores to the ground and lighting police cars on fire. The image of Devonte Hart and Sgt. Bret Barnum shows a light at the end of a very nasty tunnel.