Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Photo of Black Officer Helping White Supremacist at South Carolina KKK Rally Goes Viral

South Carolina Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, who is black, helps a frail old white supremacist escape from dangerous heat during a KKK rally at the State House in Columbia on Saturday.

South Carolina Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, who is black, helps a frail old white supremacist escape from dangerous heat during a KKK rally at the State House in Columbia on Saturday. (Rob Godfrey/Twitter)

A photo of a black police officer helping a frail old white supremacist in a Nazi t-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan rally in South Carolina has gone viral.

A week after the Confederate battle flag was removed forever from the grounds of the South Carolina State House, members and supporters of the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers held separate but inextricably connected rallies in Columbia on Saturday, resulting in inevitable confrontations, ugly and provocative displays of white racism, clashes and arrests.

Racial tension, already at a boiling point, was exacerbated by scorching summer’s heat. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in Columbia hit 98 degrees (37C) on Saturday, greatly increasing the risk of heat-related ailments for humans of every race.

Soaring temperatures don’t discriminate, and apparently Public Safety Director Leroy Smith doesn’t either. The black police officer was spotted assisting an elderly white racist clad in a black Nazi t-shirt, swastika and all, up a stairway and into the shade.

“He had observed that the person appeared to be feeling ill from the heat and needed assistance,” spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli told CNN. “He was helping get him up the stairs the statehouse so that he could receive emergency medical care.”

Rob Godfrey, deputy chief of staff for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), snapped a photo of the moment and uploaded it to his Twitter feed. “Not an uncommon example of humanity in S.C.,” wrote Godfrey in the accompanying caption. The touching photo has since gone viral, and has been retweeted more than 5,000 times.

Saturday’s demonstrations came one month after white supremacist Dylann Roof, who was fond of displaying the Confederate battle flag, sat through an hour-long prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, one of the nation’s oldest and most historic black churches, before pulling out a gun and massacring nine worshippers, all of them black. The Charleston murders sparked renewed debate over the Confederate flag and whether it should continue to be displayed so prominently and officially on public property, a debate that did not end even after the flag was lowered for the last time at the State House.

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