Two photos circulating social media have the Hollywood Police Department on the defense after one of their officers was seen taking pictures with members of a group supporting keeping the names of several former Confederate generals on city streets.
Levell Strong, who was part of the group protesting the names of three streets – Lee, Hood and Forrest – snapped a photo about an hour after the protests had ended. It showed an unidentified officer posing for photos with those supporting the names – people who some protesters said were hurling racial slurs at them during the often contentious events Wednesday.
The anti-street name protesters, including members of Take Down Slavery Symbols Hollywood and the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, say that the pro-street sign members were still pointing and laughing while taking pictures with the officers – however, they say he did not participate in that behavior.
"It wasn't quick and not just a picture, it was contact he participated in. He was laughing and joking and to see these women turn and point at us and laugh after it was all over was absolutely disgusting," said Jasmen Rogers with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward.
Hollywood Police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman spoke with NBC 6’s Marissa Bagg, saying a woman asked to take a picture with the officer as part of the Hug a Cop initiative designed to thank officers for their service.
Grossman went on to say that “this wasn’t the officer or anyone with the police department siding with either side” and that members of the department were talking to both sets of protesters. She did agree that it “wasn’t the right time to fraternize”, but said it wasn’t malicious and he did not mean to upset anyone.
Five people were arrested during Wednesday’s events – the latest in various efforts that have been made in the past to change the names, honoring Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Some of the people protesting in the counter-rally called themselves white supremacists and yelled at members of the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward.
"I'm against them entirely. I hate them. They're black supremacists," said Chris Cedeno, a member of the Florida League of the South.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones says the counter protestors called him a racial slur.
"I was called the n-word and a monkey. I've heard about those terms from my parents and read from the Civil Rights Movement, but I've never been called that," Jones said.
Although the women in the photos with the officer weren't the ones screaming racial slurs, the clothes they wore spoke for what they came to represent.
Several cities, including Orlando and New Orleans, have taken down statues in recent weeks commemorating the Confederacy after heated debate from both sides of the issue.