not an uncommon example of humanity in SC: Leroy Smith helps white supremacist to shelter & water as heat bears down. pic.twitter.com/GoF23r3mRe
— Rob Godfrey (@RobGodfrey) July 18, 2015
South Carolina’s director of public safety issued a statement today about why he helped a neo-Nazi into the shade, a viral image that was captured by Gov. Nikki Haley’s deputy chief of staff.
Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, the officer pictured helping the KKK rally participant, was helping with crowd control when a white supremacist asked if Smith could help two other KKK demonstrators who had been overcome by the heat.
Smith and Columbia Fire Department Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, who like Smith is African-American, helped the protesters up the stairs to waiting EMTs.
“I have been somewhat surprised by how this photo has taken off and gone viral around the world. Even though I serve as the director of this agency, I consider myself like every other officer who was out there braving the heat on Saturday to preserve and protect. The photo that was captured just happened to be of me,” Smith said.
“Our men and women in uniform are on the front lines every day helping people – regardless of the person’s skin color, nationality or beliefs. As law enforcement officers, service is at the heart of what we do,” he continued.
“I believe this photo captures who we are in South Carolina and represents what law enforcement is all about. I am proud to serve this great State, and I hope this photo will be a catalyst for people to work to overcome some of the hatred and violence we have seen in our country in recent weeks.”
The rally protesting the removal of the Confederate flag was organized by the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Their event was preceded by a rally of the New Black Panther Party, which has been classified as a “virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
An editorial in The State newspaper urged locals to stay away from both rallies.
“We recognize that many good and sincere South Carolinians feel a need to demonstrate to the world that such people are not welcome in South Carolina. But there is no need to do that; these are already marginalized groups. No one believes we want them here, or that they represent us. They’re coming to South Carolina because they hope to take advantage of all the national attention on our flag debate to steal a little of the spotlight for themselves… We can stop them from accomplishing anything they hope to accomplish — by simply ignoring them.”