A black police officer has said he was “surprised” by the attention he received after a photo of him helping a man wearing a Nazi t-shirt at a white supremacist rally.
Leroy Smith, the director of public safety for South Carolina, was snapped helping a man overcome by sunstroke at a KKK protest against the decision to remove the Confederate flag from outside the statehouse on Saturday.
The photo was taken by a spokesman for Governor Nikki Haley who called for the flag’s removal, as Mr Smith helped the unidentified man up the steps in the shade to be treated by emergency workers.
The picture subsequently went viral and Mr Smith was praised for his compassion in the face of hatred and bigotry.
On Twitter user commented that he hoped the white supremacists taking part “changed their ways” after witnessing “this episode of humanity at its finest”.
But Mr Smith insists he was merely doing his job.
He said all officers had a duty to help people "regardless of the person's skin color, nationality or beliefs."
"I consider myself like every other officer who was out there braving the heat on Saturday to preserve and protect," he added.
The rally was organised by North Carolina based KKK group, known as the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, in protest at the decision to remove the Confederate flag in the wake of a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
Mr Smith said he only hoped the 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 Department for Public Safety estimated that 2,000 people attended the rally after civil rights activists from Florida staged a counter demonstration against the KKK at the statehouse in the capital Columbia.
Additional reporting by APReuse content