Ferguson protester tearfully accepts cop’s offer of peace in hug shared round the world

Devonte Hart
Sgt. Bret Barnum embraces Devonte Hart at a Ferguson rally in Portland, Ore. Photo credit Johnny Nguyen and The Oregonian.

Proving the worst of situations can reveal the best in humanity, a white police officer and a black youth showed the world what peace looks like – during none other than a Michael Brown demonstration.

During a Portland, Ore., protest earlier this week against the grand jury decision exonerating Officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s shooting death, Devonte Hart, 12, was holding a sign that said, “Free Hugs.” He was approached by Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum in what became a moment of hope caught by freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen, The Oregonian reported.

“I came upon this boy who had tears in his eyes and I knew this was the place to be so I followed him in the crowd,” Nguyen told The Oregonian.

Barnum told the newspaper that the two talked about the demonstration, school, art and life in general. When the conversation was ending, the policeman pointed to Devonte’s sign and asked, “Do I get one of those?”

When Hart obliged and the two embraced, tears welled up in the boy’s eyes.

Hart’s mother, Jen Hart, posted about the moment on Facebook which was viewed by hundreds of thousands until she made the post private.

Hart has had a tough life for much of his 12 years. Born with drugs already in his system, he was smoking, drinking alcohol, handling guns and had been shot at – all by the age of 4, according to the Paper Trail. He also suffered severe abuse and neglect until Jen Hart and her wife, Sarah, stepped adopted him and his two siblings, the Paper Trail reported.

“He inspires me every single day. He has proven doctors, psychologists and teachers wrong,” Jen Hart told the Paper Trail. “His future is most definitely not bleak. He is a shining star in this world. His light shines bright on everyone on his path.

“People always tell us how lucky he is that we adopted him. I tell you, we most certainly are the lucky ones. Yes indeed he is living proof that our past does not dictate our future.”

This is not the first time the younger Hart has done something remarkable. He asked his parents if he could spend his 11th and 12th birthdays raising money for charity, and once, he got to hug musician Xavier Rudd, the Paper Trail reported.


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