Alabama Officers Suspended Over Alleged 'Hoax' White Power Hand Gesture in Photo

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Members and supporters of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the U.S., hold a rally on April 21 in Newnan, Georgia. Four police officers in Alabama were suspended after making the upside down "OK" sign in a photo, an alleged white power symbol. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Four Jasper, Alabama, police officers were given a two-week suspension and a loss of one week's pay after they were accused of making a white power symbol with their hands in a photo following an arrest.

The photo was originally published on Thursday by The Daily Mountain Eagle following the arrest of a man with multiple prior arrests and who police consider to be a major drug dealer in the Jasper area. Mayor David O'Mary credited the officers for their "commitment" to keeping the community safe during an interview with The Daily Mountain Eagle.

However, the mayor later received complains that a hand gesture that officers displayed in the photo, which consists of the thumb and forefinger making a circle while the three other fingers remain straight, was racist and a symbol meaning "white power."

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People flash the "OK" sign at the "A Night for Freedom" event organized by Mike Cernovich, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. The "OK" sign is sometimes believed to be a symbol of white power because of a post was created on the website, 4chan. Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Some Jasper residents disagreed with the meaning behind the symbol and told WBMA-LD that it's part of the "Circle Game" that kids play with the goal being to trick another person into looking at the hand gesture placed below the waist. If the person looks, the person doing the hand gesture gets to punch them in the shoulder, according to Dictionary.com.

After speaking with two senior officers who are African-American and considered the punishment "fair," O'Mary told WBMA-LD he suspended the officers for two weeks and docked their pay for one week. Newsweek reached out to O'Mary but did not receive a response in time for publication. While the mayor admitted to WBMA-LD that he hasn't spoken to the officers to find out the intended meaning behind the gesture, he added the meaning doesn't matter.

"That's contradictory to how we run our city. That's not our mindset," O'Mary explained. "That's not the way we do things and they used poor judgment."

O'Mary explained in an email to AL.com that the Civil Service Board agreed that the mayor has the power to impose a five-day loss of pay. He added that diversity training will also be required.

The symbol's link to white supremacy, which largely resembles the "OK" hand gesture, originated on the website 4chan when an anonymous user said the three fingers make a "w" and the circle creates a "p," therefore creating the first letters of the words "White Power," according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). While the ADL acknowledged that 4chan has become "something of a haven" for racists and white supremacists, it called the "OK" symbol being declared a white power gesture a "hoax."

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Members and supporters of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the U.S., hold a rally on April 21 in Newnan, Georgia. Four police officers in Alabama were suspended after making the upside down "OK" sign in a photo, an alleged white power symbol. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Alabama Officers Suspended Over Alleged 'Hoax' White Power Hand Gesture in Photo | U.S.