Baraboo student in controversial photo says photographer told them to “give a ‘high-sign'”

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UPDATE (WKOW) — A Baraboo student, caught in the center of the controversial prom photo shared his side of the story.

Baraboo senior and high school quarterback, Brock Turkington apologized for how the photo has affected the community but defended himself and his classmates.

“It wasn’t supposed to be anything disrespectful at all to anybody,” he said.

He said the moments leading up to what appears to be a Nazi salute had more to do with confusion than malice as everyone was trying to figure out what the photographer wanted to do.

“He says girls down, guys are just on the steps right now and now a ‘high sign’ and nobody really understood what a high sign was,” Turkington said.

As the students looked at each other in confusion, Turkington said the photographer demonstrated by raising his arm.

“It was just miscommunication, like we were told to do one thing and he demonstrated it badly and we all just kind of followed along because we wanted to get the pictures over with,” he said.

Turkington was standing in the second row in the group of about 60 students. He can be seen towards the center with his arm slightly raised but bent.

He said he saw the photo soon after it was taken in May and understands how their pose could be interpreted as a salute.

“I thought, wow, I hope nobody gets a hold of that because that looks really bad,” Turkington said.

After that, he said he didn’t think much of it until the photo until it went viral Monday morning in a tweet captioned “We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud.”

In the days since, it sparked outrage. Classmates and neighbors took to the courthouse steps to spread messages of love, while voices from the Auschwitz Memorial to Governor-elect Tony Evers denounced the apparent Nazi symbolism.

Turkington said that backlash is justified.

“I totally agreed with it because what Baraboo stands for,” he said.

That’s why he said he’s asking for forgiveness.

“Sorry for what happened,” Turkington said. “We don’t want anybody to think that it was bad intentioned.”

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BARABOO (WKOW) — A student in a photo of Baraboo High School students giving what some call a Nazi salute is now giving his side of the story.

Brock Turkington says he was standing in the group of about 60 boys of the Class of 2019 when the photographer snapped the photo.

“During the photos of the boys group, a picture was taken that many have interpreted as anti-Semitic. As we
were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign’,” Turkington wrote in an emailed statement to WKOW.

“There was confusion and a lot of laughter and joking during the course of all the photos, including this particular photo.”

The teen wrote many boys, including himself, weren’t sure what to do.

“The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one new what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘what are we doing’, he responded ‘stick your arm out’.”

“Looking at the picture now, I understand why people believe it is related to anti-semitism. As an
outsider, I would have the same impression,” Turkington wrote. “That was never the intent at that time. In this
picture are many of my friends (not everyone in the picture), that I know are not racist and do not hold Nazi views.”

He goes on to apologize to the community.

“I want to apologize to anyone that this incident has hurt; individuals that have been victims of racism, anti-semitism, and/or xenophobia. I would also like to apologize to the people of Baraboo, Baraboo High School, and my family. I am deeply sorry.”

Since the photo surfaced over the weekend, it has drawn national and international condemnation. The photographer says the shot has been misinterpreted.

WKOW will air a one-on-one interview with Turkington on 27 News at 10.

Kevin Boughton

Kevin Boughton

Senior executive producer, 27 News

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