Photo: Police officer and young demonstrator share hug during Ferguson rally in Portland

As thousands gathered to make their voices heard during a rally earlier this week, one officer and a young man paused to hear each other out.

This image, shot by freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen, shows Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugging 12-year-old Devonte Hart during the Ferguson demonstration in Portland on Nov. 25, 2014.

According to Sgt. Barnum, the interaction took place at the beginning of the rally. With emotions running high as speakers were addressing the crowd, he noticed a young man with tears in his eyes holding a “Free Hugs” sign among a group of people.

Sgt. Barnum motioned him over and the two started talking about the demonstration, school, art and life. As the conversation ended, Sgt. Barnum pointed to his sign and asked, “Do I get one of those?” The moment following his question was captured in the photo above, which shows Devonte’s eyes welling up with tears once again as he embraces the officer. 

Devonte, it turns out, has a life story that’s almost as big as his heart.

After the exchange, Devonte rejoined his family and friends participating in the rally and Sgt. Barnum, a 21-year-veteran, went back about his duties.

Jim Manske’s insight:
I want a greater than 3:1 ratio of hugs to violence! A bow of gratitude to Sgt Barnum for expanding our view of what is possible. A bow of gratitude to Devonte Hart for reminding us of the strength in vulnerability. Please, Sgt Barnum, keep protecting Devonte and all of Us.