A photo of D.C. firefighter recruits making upside-down “OK” hand gestures has triggered internet outrage, and an official investigation.
The photograph was taken last March and features members of Recruit Class 387, which graduated in April, D.C. Fire and EMS told WUSA-TV on Wednesday. Facebook users recently resurfaced the image, alleging that some of the recruits were flashing “white power” hand signs.
The D.C. fire department told WUSA it had learned of the photo earlier in the day and launched an investigation.
“The department has immediately initiated an interview review of the photograph, which may include interviews with everyone pictured in the photograph,” D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Doug Buchanan said.
Still, critics expressed despair at the state of race relations in America and skepticism that the situation would be adequately dealt with.
“And nothing ever gets done about it,” one D.C.-based Facebook user said of the photo.
Another D.C. resident, who was unnamed, complained to WUSA, a local CBS affiliate, of feeling “uncomfortable” about the photo. The viewer said the recruits should have learned their lesson from a scandal over military students making similar gestures last month during the pre-game broadcast of the Army-Navy college football game.
National activists soon took notice, too.
Oh, I see several of the latest DC fire and rescue recruits are white supremacists! I feel safer already. https://t.co/CPpYZXgVSo
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) January 16, 2020
Are the firefighters really flashing a white power sign?
However, some social media users suggested the outrage over the photo was unfounded.
Conservative pundits criticized CBS News for jumping to conclusions.
CBS News had more integrity under Rather, think about that… https://t.co/8O9rZan2aU
— Aaron et politica ingenio 🚀🇺🇸 (@peekaso) January 16, 2020
Some shared photos of liberal non-white celebrities making the “OK” sign.
Many recalled how the controversy over the military students ended: Separate investigations by the Military Academy and Naval Academy concluded that the students were not actually making racist gestures. Officials said the students were instead playing the popular “circle game,” in which one person tries to trick others into looking at the sign and is allowed to punch them in the arm if successful.
At a time when many on the left see signs of Trump-fueled white supremacy everywhere, OK-hand-symbol hysteria has become routine.
Another controversy broke out in May 2019 when a Chicago Cubs fan displayed an OK sign during an NBC Sports broadcast at Wrigley Field. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney called the action “ignorant and repulsive,” and the organization indefinitely banned the fan from the ballpark.
Last October, Universal Studios Resort fired an actor dressed as a “Despicable Me” character after the person was accused of using the symbol in a photo with a young fan.
The Anti-Defamation League a month earlier added the OK hand symbol — in which the thumb and forefinger form a circle with the other three fingers extended — to its growing list of hate symbols.