Earlier this month, Rob Godfrey, avid photographer and deputy chief of staff for South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, posted a moving picture on his Twitter account. The accompanying description was short – 21 words – but the photo itself was worth 1,000 words and received a great deal of attention.
While some appeared to be skeptical with such a short description, not knowing exactly what was happening as the photo was being taken, the pictured officer confirmed that what appeared to be happening – a black police officer lending a helping hand to a needy neo-Nazi – was exactly what occurred.
The hot summer sun of the day proved too much for the unidentified man who was attending a protest against the removal of the Confederate flag, and when South Carolina Director of Public Safety Leroy Smith saw the man at the foot of the State House steps struggling, he immediately came to the man’s aid. Smith didn’t see a white supremacist, he simply saw a man that looked fatigued, lethargic and weak. Smith said he knew something was very wrong when he saw him.
Smith then wrapped his arms around the man and helped him walk – one by one – up the 40-something steps of the State House, and the man who would likely hate Smith simply because of the color of his skin, accepted the black man’s assistance.
Meanwhile, a woman donning neo-Nazi attire similar to that of the man in distress trailed behind them. She continually asked Smith if the man was going to be okay, and the officer reassured them both that he would be just fine.
Toward the top of the steps, Smith motioned to the Columbia fire chief, Aubrey Jenkins – who is also black – for help, and it was close to that time that someone called the act to Godfrey’s attention, who then captured the moment on his iPhone.
Smith and Jenkins, unaware the photo had been taken, helped the man into the comfort of the cool air in the State House, led him to a couch to rest and provided him with water to re-hydrate.
Smith was surprised to find out about the photo and how much attention it received. Smith’s response included a single word, one that doesn’t typically come to mind when thinking about white supremacists. He said the photo represented love.
“I think that’s the greatest thing in the world – love,” he said. “And that’s why so many people were moved by it.”