Darien school board member denies flashing white supremacy symbol at debate

Darien Republican Board of Education member David Brown made a gesture during last week’s candidates forum that Democrats have claimed may have been a white supremacy symbol.

Darien Republican Board of Education member David Brown made a gesture during last week’s candidates forum that Democrats have claimed may have been a white supremacy symbol.

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DARIEN — A Board of Education member has denied flashing what some have claimed was a white supremacy symbol during a candidates forum last week.

The accusations stem from a gesture Republican Board of Education member David Brown made during a League of Women Voters candidate forum that was streamed live on Oct. 5. Some have said the gesture resembled the “OK” sign, which the Anti-Defamation League said has been linked to white supremacy.

However, Brown, who is seeking a second three-year term on the school board, has denied making the hate symbol.

During his closing remarks of the forum, video shows Brown speaking with his arms crossed and his left hand forming a circle with his first few fingers, leaving the others extended. Throughout the forum, his hands had been generally clasped in front, either crossed or in his lap.

“I would like to ask the vote of everyone watching tonight,” Brown said during his closing remarks. “I hope that you can look at my record and be encouraged that I can do the same dedicated service for the next three years.”

Following the debate, the Darien Democratic Town Committee posted a screenshot of the gesture on Twitter that has since been deleted. State Sen. Bob Duff, who represents Norwalk and Darien, was among those who commented on the screenshot.

“Did a Republican candidate for #Darien BOE make a ‘white power’ signal at the debate last night?” Duff tweeted.

Duff’s tweet has also since been deleted. Duff’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

David Bayne, chair of the Democratic Town Committe, said in an email that he was still waiting for Brown to answer questions about the intent behind the gesture.

“David Brown, an elected official and a candidate for the Darien Board of Education that makes decisions about our children’s education, positioned his hands in what appears to have been a symbol that can be construed as offensive twice during a public debate last week,” Bayne said. “What did he intend? It has now been a week and no answer has yet been offered by Mr. Brown. The voters have a right to know.”

Brown and the Darien Republican Town Committee have denied the gesture was intended to be a hate symbol.

“I denounce the Darien Democratic Town Committee and State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff for fabricating and perpetuating a lie for naked political gain. Their vicious, divisive, partisan acts have ripped our town apart,” Brown said in the statement released Tuesday.

“Shame on Senator Duff and ‘Darien Democrats’ for the destructive impact their actions have had on our town and school community, our students especially those of color, my family and me,” Brown said in the statement. “I denounce the DTC slate who adopted this lie by their silence. Their tactic of playing ignorant exposes their motives.”

In a statement, the Darien RTC also criticized the DTC post as “deeply offensive, false and scurrilous” and called on the Democrats to publicly apologize to Brown.

On Tuesday, the RTC posted a letter the group said was written by members of the League of Women Voters. The league, according to the letter, is also demanding a public apology and criticized the DTC for violating an agreement of its video policy.

“We condemn the incident and surrounding negative publicity brought to the LWV, and most importantly, to the candidate,” the league said in the letter.

The LWV could not be reached for comment.

Footage of the gesture has also been posted on TikTok with one user’s video generating more than 1,000 comments.

While the sideways “OK” symbol has long been considered innocuous, the Anti-Defamation League included the sign on a “Hate on Display” database in 2019. According to the ADL, the symbol has been linked to white supremacy in recent years after sprouting up on extremist sites like 4chan.

The ADL advises caution when evaluating instances of the symbol’s use.

The election for the Board of Education and other town offices is Nov. 2.

Liz Hardaway contributed to this report.