New South Wales (NSW) police responded on July 13 to a video that showed an officer making an OK hand gesture, a gesture co-opted by far-right individuals, telling local media the officer did not know the gesture’s alternative meaning.
This video shows a column of police officers in face masks crossing the street at the corner of Pitt Street and Park Street in Sydney on June 12. A protest has been organised for the nearby Town Hall on that date. In the video, one of the officers makes the gesture as he passes the camera.
ABC News, quoting a police statement, reported that the officer “did not intentionally make a gesture that could be deemed offensive.”
The statement drew criticism from Tim Soutphommasane, former Race Discrimination Commissioner, who said, “Given previous controversies involving police in Australia about this, no police officer can pretend they don’t know this is a sign appropriated by white supremacists.”
In November 2019, Victoria Police denounced posts on the social media accounts of an officer accused of making a similar gesture.
The gesture has come to be understood as a far-right symbol. As reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, figures like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos were photographed using the gesture as early as 2015 and 2016, respectively.
The gesture was later adopted by users of the fringe platform 4chan who, in February 2017, launching a trolling campaign dubbed “Operation O-KKK.” As one user stated in the original post on 4chan, “We must flood Twitter and other social media websites with spam, claiming that the OK hand signal is a symbol of white supremacy."
Storyful has contacted NSW police for additional information. Credit: Jen Atherton via Storyful