February 24, 2020
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Waterville fire chief condemns apparent ‘white power’ hand gesture in official department photo

Screenshot of Waterville Fire Re | BDN
Screenshot of Waterville Fire Re | BDN
A Waterville fire department photo where a firefighter can be seen making a hand gesture associated with white power.

Update: Waterville’s fire chief responded Friday saying the firefighter had injured his hand and made the gesture unknowingly. Read the latest story here.

Waterville’s fire chief on Thursday said it was “completely unacceptable” that a firefighter appeared to make a hand gesture associated with white power in an official department photo.

The photo featuring the entire Waterville Fire Department had been used as the cover photo for the department’s Facebook page since it was uploaded Tuesday. The fire department removed it on Thursday evening after the BDN asked about the firefighter’s hand gesture — an “OK” sign that has been listed as a symbol of hate.

Screenshot of Waterville Fire Rescue | BDN
Screenshot of Waterville Fire Rescue | BDN
A Waterville fire department photo where a firefighter can be seen making a hand gesture associated with white power.

Fire Chief Shawn Esler said he plans to investigate to determine the firefighter’s intent behind the hand gesture.

“If I find that it was associated with any kind of hate crime whatsoever, I will be disciplining said individual to the fullest extent of my power and turning it over to the police for further review,” Esler said.

Esler had not seen the photo, he told the BDN on Thursday evening. If his investigation finds that the hand sign is linked to white power, Esler said, “it will be completely unacceptable in the view of public safety, or the view of the city of Waterville.”

Screenshot of Waterville Fire Rescue | BDN
Screenshot of Waterville Fire Rescue | BDN
A Waterville fire department photo where a firefighter can be seen making a hand gesture associated with white power.

The sign has also been used to “trigger liberals” or as a joke.

“It’s not a joke to me, and it’s not a joke to the fire service either,” Esler said. “There is no joke when it comes to that.”

 


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