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DC recruit photo investigated: Are hand signals racist or a game?

DC Fire & EMS Department photo of April 2019 recruit class had been shared on Facebook

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Evan Lambert, WTTG-TV/FOX5:

The D.C. Fire and EMS Department has launched an internal investigation after a photo surfaced Wednesday of a recruit class in which some of the members are making what appears to be an OK sign with their hands.

The signal has traditionally been seen as a symbol of understanding or an affirmative reply, but according to the Anti-Defamation League was claimed by white supremacists as a sign of hate.

DCFEMS is investigating the intent of those in the photo, which the department says was taken in March.

A source who spoke to someone in the photo tells FOX 5 the group, which often joked around, played the circle game on multiple occasions. The game, often associated with children, allows someone to hit another person who looks into the circle formed by someone’s hand below their waist.

The source says the recruits were playing the game just before someone took the photo.

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Jackie Bensen & Gina Cook, WRC-TV/NBC4:

The Anti-Defamation League says on its website the “OK” hand gesture acquired a different significance in 2017 because of a hoax perpetuated on the online message board 4chan. The idea was to troll liberals by taking an innocent symbol and making them believe it was racist.

The hoax was so successful the symbol became a popular trolling tactic with right-leaning individuals and, ironically, some white supremacists, the ADL said.

In December, military officials determined that Army Cadets and Navy Midshipmen who flashed similar symbols were playing a juvenile game known as “the circle game” and were not making hand gestures that have become associated with white nationalists and other hate groups.

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DC Fire & EMS Department statement:

The DC Fire and EMS Department was made aware of this picture today. The photograph is those attached to Recruit Class 387 and their instructors. Recruit Class 387 graduated in April of 2019, and it is believed the picture was taken in March of 2019. The Department has immediately initiated an internal review of the photograph, which may include interviews with everyone pictured in the photograph.

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