Firefighter under investigation for possible white supremacist gesture on camera

The man made the hand symbol while taking part in a Fox 5 show

Helen Elfer
Wednesday 18 August 2021 21:39
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An Alexandria, Virginia firefighter who was filmed allegedly making a hand gesture associated with white supremacy during a local news programme has been placed on leave.

The firefighter, who has not been identified, is currently being investigated for closing his fist and then making the “OK” hand sign – a gesture that has been listed by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol.

A viewer wrote in to complain after spotting the action on Zip Trip, a live Fox 5 show about regional businesses and community that featured a group of Alexandria firefighters.

As the camera panned across the group, one of the firefighters, who had his hands by his sides, appeared to covertly make the symbol before the clip finished.

The OK gesture is very common in a number of contexts – in scuba diving, various games, and more generally to indicate everything is fine.

However, in 2017, a 4Chan prank linking the then-innocuous gesture to the white power movement caught on, leading to white supremacists using it to express their biased views in everyday situations.

The Alexandria Fire Department member has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the investigation is ongoing.

Department Chief Corey Smedley was asked if the gesture could have been a joke, and responded: “Just because someone may have thought things were a joke, it’s not something that’s up to our values within the department. So we have to first and foremost make every attempt to maintain the integrity and trust of the community, and joking is not something that’s a part of our mission.”

The International Association of Firefighters released a statement on Twitter, saying:

“IAFF Local 2141 is a diverse and inclusive workforce and union that works to promote an equitable and inclusive work environment. We hold ALL of our members to the high personal conduct standard that the Alexandria community both expect and deserve.”

It continued: “IAFF Local 2141 has a zero tolerance policy towards any actions that can be interpreted as racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic or pro-violent.”

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