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Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., Nov. 25, 2014.  Johnny H. Nguyen

A Cop Hugs a Tearful Boy in This Powerful Ferguson Protest Photo

Nov 29, 2014

A demonstration in Portland, Oregon was the scene of an unusual embrace last week.

The November 25 protest was held, along with many across the United States, in solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white policeman in August, following a grand jury's decision not to indict the officer.

Photographer Johnny Nguyen brought his camera to the protest and met a 12-year-old black boy named Devonte Hart, who was overcome with emotion.

"I saw tears running down Devonte's face and a sign that said free hugs around his neck," Nguyen, 20, recalls. "There was a lot going on, but my gut told right then and there to stay with this kid."

Nguyen followed Devonte through the crowd and watched as a white Portland police officer named Bret Barnum looked at Devonte's sign and asked, "Do I get one of those?" The pair hugged.

"It has spread the message of coming together despite our differences," says Nguyen of the photo, which he put on Instagram. "The message is about love and compassion and finding a common ground."

After the hug, the two went their separate ways: the 12-year-old Hart to go protest, and Barnum to do police work.

Nguyen says that Americans have been waiting for a sign of togetherness after the vitriol and anger of the past week. "I think people deep down have been clambering for a glimmer of hope amidst all the negativity going on," Nguyen said. "I'm just glad I was there, in the right place and the right time."

PHOTOS: See the Nation React to the Ferguson Decision

Hundreds of demonstrators, many of them Howard University students, march down the middle of U Street Northwest in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24, 2014.
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Hundreds of demonstrators, many of them Howard University students, march down the middle of U Street Northwest in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24, 2014.Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
Hundreds of demonstrators, many of them Howard University students, march down the middle of U Street Northwest in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters gather at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters demonstrate in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters march around taxis on Seventh Avenue in New York City on Nov. 24, 2014.v
Protesters march near Times Square in New York City on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protestors block the freeway during a demonstration in Oakland, Calif., on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters block Interstate 580 in Oakland, Calif., on Nov. 24, 2014.
A protestor on a bike rides in front of a crowd of police officers in full riot gear in Oakland, Calif., on Nov. 25, 2014.
Flames burn behind a demonstrator in Oakland, Calif., on Nov. 25, 2014.
Protesters kneel during a demonstration in Seattle on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters lay down to block traffic in the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters block the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Nov. 24, 2014.
Donald Fields, 37, with daughter Olivia Fields, 9, at a Leimert Park gathering in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 2014.
Hundreds of demonstrators, many of them Howard University students, march down the middle of U Street Northwest in Washi
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Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
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