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An amazing photo shows a black police officer helping a white supremacist amid a racial clash

Members of the Ku Klux Klan yell as they fly Confederate flags during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina July 18, 2015. A Ku Klux Klan chapter and an African-American group planned overlapping demonstrations on Saturday outside the South Carolina State House, where state officials removed the Confederate battle flag last week.
Reuters/Chris Keane
A less appealing image from the day.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Racial tension remains rife in South Carolina. Yesterday (July 18), members of the Ku Klux Klan clashed with a group called Black Educators for Justice with ties to the New Black Panther party outside the South Carolina state house.

That’s the location where, until recently, the Confederate battle flag had flown for more than 50 years, in the state where nine black churchgoers were shot and killed by a professed white supremacist in June. Around 2,000 people were gathered at one point, some waving Confederate flags and at least one with a Nazi flag.

But amid the strife and violence, a distinctly different moment stood out: A photo taken at the event shows Leroy Smith, a black police officer, helping an older white supremacist to the shade as he struggles under the sun and pounding South Carolina heat.

The tired-looking elderly man wears the attire of the National Socialist Movement, including a t-shirt bearing a swastika. Officer Smith holds his arm to steady him.

The image, shot by Rob Godfrey, deputy chief of staff to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, went viral overnight.

The irony of a black man assisting a professed racist seems to have struck a chord around the world. Or perhaps it’s the extraordinary forbearance and kindness of officer Smith, which offers an irresistible glimpse of humanity at its best.

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