CHARLESTON, S.C., July 19 (UPI) — In the latest chapter of the outcry over the Confederate flag issue in South Carolina, an unexpected scene emerged from rallies involving the Ku Klux Klan and black supporters this weekend — a photo of a black police officer helping a white supremacist at the Capitol in Charleston.
Members of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK were protesting the state’s recent decision to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds. Black advocates held their own rally, and a clash among the two parties ensued.
Due to the extremely different philosophies of each group, many were surprised when the photo emerged from the scene.
It didn’t take long for the photograph — taken by Rob Godfrey, the deputy chief of staff for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley — to spread on the Internet.
“Not an uncommon example of humanity in SC: Leroy Smith helps white supremacist to shelter & water as heat bears down,” Godfrey wrote in posting the photo on Twitter.
Officer Leroy Smith was helping the man find shade and water on a hot day in Charleston, when temperatures reached the upper 90s. About 2,000 people attended the rallies.
“He was assisting with crowd control on the stairs where the KKK was rallying,” spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli said of Smith.
As might be expected, the general public largely fell into one of two camps — applauding the photo, or questioning it.
“This kindness chokes me up. How do SC people find that well of caring in the midst of so much hatred?” one person replied in the photo’s comment thread.
“Amazing! I couldn’t find it in my heart and I am white,” another remarked.
“Just curious. Put this in reverse. Would that White Supremacist have done that for Officer Smith at a Black Panther rally?” countered one tweet.
“Being nice didn’t save those 9 people [at the Charleston church shooting] though,” posted another.
Thursday, Haley encouraged people to stay away from the KKK rally.
“The strength and grace the people of South Carolina have shown over the last three weeks have inspired our family, our neighbors and the entire world,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Our family hopes the people of South Carolina will join us in staying away from the disruptive, hateful spectacle members of the Ku Klux Klan hope to create.”