NYPD Officer Accused of Flashing White Power Symbol During George Floyd Protest Investigated by Attorney General

Claims that a New York police officer flashed a hand symbol which has been linked to white supremacy during a protest over the death of George Floyd is being investigated by the attorney general.

A video of the protest taking place at New York City's Union Square over the weekend showed an on-duty officer appearing to flash an "OK" hand gesture and another officer smiling after noticing.

The footage was filmed while hundreds protested the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis Police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while the 46-year-old cried out "I can't breathe."

The "OK" hand gesture has been tied to white supremacy following what began as a hoax troll campaign by the controversial message board site 4chan.

The aim was to make people and the media believe the innocuous gesture was actually a coded message to show support for white supremacy as the fingers spell out the letters WP, or white power.

While the gesture continues to be used as a trolling tactic, it has since been co-opted by those actually expressing support for far-right ideology.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) included the "OK" hand gesture in its database of hate symbols following a number of high-profile examples of people using it.

Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man accused of killing 51 people in the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque attacks, smiled and flashed an "OK" hand gesture during his first court appearance in 2019.

The video of the officer appearing to make the hand gesture has been viewed nearly eight million times since it was posted on social media by Twitter user @Kikimurphy_.

High-profile names such as actresses Debra Messing and Wanda Sykes were among those to call for the officer in question to be fired.

Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt tweeted: "This is clear and compelling. Officer # 1 throws the White Power sign. Officer # 2 sees it, acknowledges it and laughs about it. Who are these officers? They should be dismissed and this should be [put] to the Mayor and Commissioner."

In response to the clip, New York Attorney General Letitia James urged: "Please report this and send the video to my office."

Please report this and send the video to my office: Complaints@ag.ny.gov

— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) May 31, 2020

James announced that her office would be investigating interactions between NYPD and those protesting Floyd's death after days of widespread violence and disorder in the city, resulting in hundreds of arrests and both officers and civilians being injured and patrol vehicles set on fire.

"Peaceful protest is a basic civil right. That right should be protected and guarded. We take the designation to investigate last night's actions very seriously," James said. "We will act independently to seek answers, ensure that the truth is laid bare, and that there is accountability for any wrongdoing."

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, praised James for investigating the claims of public misconduct taking place during the protests.

"From brutal use of force to an officer flashing the white power sign, what we've witnessed this weekend is extremely troubling," Maloney tweeted.

"TY @NewYorkStateAG for working to hold members of the NYPD accountable & ensure our right to peacefully protest cannot be violated without consequence."

New York mayor Bill de Blasio criticized some of the NYPD's handling of the protesters over the weekend after several clashes with demonstrators.

"We've seen some videos where protesters were handled very violently and roughly and that is not neighborhood policing and we will not accept that kind of behavior," he said.

De Blasio also said that some of those on the streets of New York had an "agenda of violence and incitement" which had nothing to do with protesting police brutality.

"They meant to harm police officers and they did harm police officers. They meant to attack police vehicles and they did. They meant to attack police precincts and that is all purely unacceptable."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also called for all police misconduct investigations across the country to be conducted by independent agencies instead of local prosecutors in order to better hold officers to account.

"The real issue is the continuing racism in this country and it is chronic and it is endemic and it is institutional and it speaks to a collective hypocrisy," Cuomo said.

"We're very good in this country at telling other people how they should live their lives and how they should act, but we still discriminate on the basis of color of skin. That is the simple, painful truth—but this is a moment for truth.

"George Floyd must not have died in vain. Mr Floyd's killing must be a moment in which this nation actually learned and grew and progressed to make this place a better place."

The NYPD and Attorney General's office have been contacted for comment.

(File photo) New York Police Department (NYPD) officers walk past a dumpster fire in front of the Hampton Inn on west 35th street during a rally in response to the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 31, 2020 in New York City. The attorney general is investigating a video in which an NYPD officer appears to flash a hand gesture linked to white supremacy at a protest. Justin Heiman/Getty