In a widely circulated photographed, Leroy Smith was captured helping a white supremacist who appeared to be suffering from heat exhaustion during protests against the removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina.
It’s the picture that has captured America’s attention: a black police officer helping a white supremacist suffering from heat exhaustion during protests against the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina capitol grounds.
Wearing a white supremacist T-shirt that included a swastika, the unidentified older man appeared to be suffering in the South Carolina heat when Leroy Smith, a black state trooper, stepped in to help him find a place to sit down and cool off, according to a New York Times report.
As Smith helped the man, he motioned for the Columbia fire chief — also a black man — to help as well, and then walked him up the steps to an air-conditioned area in the State House. It was about this time when a state employee snapped the photo and shared it on Twitter, where it caught on like wildfire.
According to the Times report, Smith was actually taken aback by his sudden exposure to the world. He encouraged people to use the image to help society reconcile from all the hate and violence in America, which culminated in the massacre of nine black people in a church in Charleston the sparked calls for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds.
He said that he thinks love is the reason why the photo resonated so strongly across the world.
Smith was on hand, clad in a business suit with Gov. Nikki R. Haley and many others, to watch as the honor guard of troopers lowered the Confederate flag and had it sent to the museum.
After the Charleston shootings, blamed on a young white man named Dylann Roof who posed in several pictures with the Confederate flag and racist symbols, legislators in South Carolina quickly pushed through a law that would require the flag to be removed from capitol grounds.
Smith, after all the hubbub, was back on capitol grounds to ensure that things remain peaceful, no matter which side the people there were on.