By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – The photo posted on Twitter of a State Trooper fist bumping a man holding a pro-Trump flag standing with armed counter-protesters at Saturday’s protest in Concord was misportrayed by some, according to a news release Monday.
The statement was jointly issued by State Police Colonel Nathan Noyes and Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood two days after InDepthNH.org first asked for comment about the photo.
Noyes and Osgood said the trooper and Concord police officer were called to address a verbal altercation while on patrol together at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Concord.
“The Concord Officer and the State Trooper, who were partnered together for the entirety of the event to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved, spoke with individuals on both sides of the dispute. The situation was de-escalated.
“One person extended his hand to the Concord Police Officer and, in return, the Officer shook his hand. Another individual extended his hand to the State Trooper but because of concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, the Trooper extended a ‘fist bump’ instead of a handshake.”
“This gesture was photographed and that photograph has been portrayed by some individuals as a gesture of support for a particular viewpoint. This is factually incorrect,” the statement said.
State Rep. Sherry Frost, D-Dover, who posted the photo that had been taken by someone else, said, “My initial impressions are that this is a plausible explanation for that interaction. It is encouraging that the State Police took the step to issue this statement and to clarify that they don’t support the political agenda being pushed by the armed agitators. Taking their statement at face-value, it’s good that de-escalation and conversation were used instead of the heavy-handed tactics we’ve seen elsewhere. If nothing else, this should be a reminder that the public are watching and will not tolerate law enforcement siding with armed agitators who seem intent on creating tension at peaceful protests for equality.”
Frost went on: “I should make it clear here that a) I did not take the photograph and b) I was not at the Concord demonstration (I was in Dover and Portsmouth rallies last week). I am not sure that I should be a part of this story beyond my role in signal boosting the image and asking questions about the provenance of the gesture.”
On Saturday, Frost posted the photo and tweeted: “A NH state trooper fist-bumps an armed Trump-supporting anti-protestor behind the back of a black Concord City Officer at the Concord Black Lives Matter march.”
“Any questions,” Frost wrote. “Dear @NH State Police, Can you address this publicly, please? Does the NHSP not offer sufficient training for your officers to understand the implications of this gesture in this setting.”
The statement from Osgood and Noyes said: “A crucial part of our training is to de-escalate situations before they become contentious…
“The Concord Police Department and the New Hampshire State Police celebrate the extraordinary peaceful outpouring from our community during Saturday’s march. Our roles were to ensure that everyone’s fundamental right to be heard was honored.
“The New Hampshire State Police and the Concord Police Departments pride themselves on contributing to the sense of calm during events through constant professionalism and poise. Our primary goal is to have these events remain peaceful in order for the message of all individuals to be heard, and to de-escalate any tense situations that may arise. We treat everyone equally, fairly and impartially through respect, and we protect everyone’s right to express their beliefs and viewpoints peacefully.”