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Photo of black officer helping white supremacist goes viral

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The photo seems simple enough. A police officer assists an older man overcome by the heat, as scalding temperatures swept through South Carolina over the weekend.

But, a closer look at the photo reveals something more. The officer in the photo, who is black, is assisting a white supremacist at a KKK rally. The white supremacist is wearing a National Socialist Movement t-shirt with a swastika on it.

The now viral photo was first tweeted out by Rob Godfrey the Deputy Chief of Staff of Communications and External Affairs for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. The photo was taken during protests in South Carolina on Saturday, July 18.

The policeman seen in the photo is Officer Leroy Smith, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety. Godfrey's original tweet has now been retweeted almost 5,000 times and favorited over 3,000 times.

This photo was one of many taken on Saturday when hundreds of people taunted each other on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse during separate rallies staged by two groups from outside the state. There were numerous reports of fights and other scuffles, although police have released few details of those kinds of incidents.

But it seemed the photo of the officer and white supremacist stuck out among the rest. Many responded to Godfrey's photo on Twitter praising Officer Leroy Smith.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety estimated the crowd at the rallies to be approximately 2,000. Spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli said five people were arrested and 23 people needed medical attention. A statement from Richland County Emergency Service said many of the 23 were treated for heat, but no specific number was given.

Several people carried the Confederate flag along the margin of the crowd at the black educators rally. About 40 members of the KKK marched up the Capitol steps and waved flags. Many in the crowd jeered.

Before the weekend Gov. Nikki Haley urged residents to avoid the KKK rally, adding that doing so would honor the nine people shot and killed at a predominantly black church in Charleston last month. Haley has taken a lead role in removing from state property the Confederate symbol.

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