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American Fork Police Dept. apologizes, removes Facebook post with civilian flashing controversial gesture

Posted at 10:26 PM, Aug 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 21:59:34-04

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — An attempt to highlight something positive happening in the community turned into a minor controversy for the American Fork Police Department.

On Friday, an AFPD officer was out patrolling when he saw a group standing outside with American flags in an effort to show support for the troops.

The officer took a selfie with the group and posted it on the department's Facebook page.

"These awesome individuals were out today (and some yesterday) waving American Flags at Robinson Park for those service members we lost," the post read. "We wanted to stop by and tell them thank you! What a great community we live in!"

However, the officer didn't notice that one of the people in the photo was holding up the traditional "OK" hand sign — which in recent years has been appropriated by some white supremacists.

The post was deleted soon after, but screenshots of it were shared in various groups.

On Sunday, the department addressed the incident, recognizing that the gesture "is offensive to many people."

While the Anti-Defamation League has declared the sign as a hate symbol in some instances, it admits that "Use of the okay symbol in most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless."

However, the ADL does say that the gesture has become a "sincere expression of white supremacy" for some.

"[S]omeone who uses the symbol cannot be assumed to be using the symbol in either a trolling or, especially, white supremacist context unless other contextual evidence exists to support the contention," the ADL website states.

The man flashing the "OK" symbol is also wearing a hat with the logo of "Proud Boys" — which has been declared as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL calls them misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration.

"We do not condone such behavior, so the post was immediately removed as soon as we realized it existed in the photo," AFPD said in a statement Sunday. "We apologize to anyone who saw the photo before we took it down. Please know that American Fork Police Department would not have posted that photo if we realized it contained that gesture/sign."