DC fire recruits making gesture in photo were playing game, agency concludes

The department concluded its investigation after interviewing all 22 recruits in the photo

By Laura French

WASHINGTON — Officials at Washington D.C. Fire and EMS has concluded its investigation into the hand gesture made by three recruits in a photograph, saying the gesture was part of a game and not made with racist intent.

The agency’s investigation began after some accused the three recruits, who were seen in the April 2019 photo making a gesture similar to the "OK" hand symbol, of white supremacy.

Officials said in a press release on Friday that all 22 recruits in the photograph were individually interviewed, and it was ultimately determined that “the evidence fully supports that [the three members] never intended for their hand gesture to stand for any negative sign.”

The release went on to say the recruits were not aware the symbol was associated with white supremacy and was part of a game they were playing.

The Anti-Defamation League added the gesture to its hate symbols database last year but noted “particular caution must be used when evaluating this symbol” due to its common use and association with a game called the “Circle Game,” in which players try to trick others into viewing the symbol.

“Particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture,” the Anti-Defamation League said in its statement on the symbol.

During their investigation, DC Fire investigators interviewed a black member of the recruit class seen in the photo, who said, “Given what I learned about them, I don’t think they would ever intend for that hand gesture to mean anything racist.

“They are the kind of guys that would help anyone. They had a spirit of helping and encouraging others, irrespective of whether you are black or white.”

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