A Wisconsin high school student who refused to raise his arm in an apparent Nazi salute for a controversial pre-prom photo told CNN on Tuesday that he had felt “very scared” and “uncomfortable.”
Jordan Blue, now a senior at Baraboo High School, said that in May of this year, he and his male classmates had been posing for pictures in front of a local courthouse before their junior prom when the photographer told them to “raise your hand.”
“The way the students had taken [that direction] was out of control,” Blue told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday. “My peers should not have raised it in this specific way that was the offensive way and hurtful way.”
The photo, which appears to show dozens of male students from Baraboo High’s 2019 graduating class throwing up a Sieg Heil, went viral on Sunday after it resurfaced on Twitter. Blue was one of several boys who did not join in.
The Baraboo School District, in coordination with the Baraboo Police Department, announced Monday that they were investigating the incident and planned to pursue “any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal.”
“Knowing the outcome of this situation, I would not have gone up there,” Blue told CNN. “It was a scary moment and it was very shocking and upsetting. It was a huge misrepresentation of the school district and the community of Baraboo.”
“In that moment, I was uncomfortable,” he added. “I was very hurt. I was very scared for the future. ... It was wrong. It shouldn’t be OK and it’s not OK.”
Peter Gust, the photographer who took the picture, has defended himself, saying he told the students to wave goodbye to their parents, not to make the Nazi gesture.
“I didn’t tell them to salute anything,” Gust told Madison 365. “There was nothing that diminished the quality of anyone’s life. There was nothing that diminished anyone’s stature in society, nothing that was intended to point a finger at anyone in their class that may have some kind of difference. There was none of that.”
The photo was available for purchase on Gust’s website until he removed it on Monday, citing public backlash.
Clarification: This story has been updated to specify that the comments CNN attributed to a “statement” from Peter Gust were given in an interview to Madison 365.