JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An image of a Nazi sympathizer taking a punch from an unseen protester became one of the defining scenes of the demonstration in Gainesville against Richard Spencer's speech Thursday at the University of Florida.
But it's another photo of the same swastika-clad man, which surfaced on social media the following day, that is going viral.
It shows Randy Furniss standing alongside Julius Long, who met and befriended Furniss as they waded through the angry mob together.
The picture was uploaded to Facebook by Long's father, Rodney, and has been shared by over 15,000 people since it went online Friday morning.
"My son Julius Long wanted to attend the event in hopes of speaking with Mr. Spencer about his views on hate. While at the event, he befriended a Nazi sympathizer from Idaho who was being beaten, spit on and treated really bad by protesters," the post said. "He escorted the guy to safety and talked with him for over an hour. He eventually gave him a ride to his car and exchanged contact information. This strange encounter proves that when we talk with each other we can better understand each other and one day love will conquer hate."
A man wearing a shirt with swastikas on it is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd near where white nationalist Richard Spencer was speaking Thursday.
Furniss, who found himself under attack for his attire, formed an unlikely bond with Long despite their differences, The Gainesville Sun reported.
"They were hitting me on the back of the head and sitting on me. It wasn’t black people, it was white people, they were getting everybody riled up," he told the newspaper. "What he did, he rised up and above what anyone else was doing. He set a high bar of standard because he understood what I was going through."
After chatting, Long said the pair found they had some things in common, according to the report. Notably, the protest was a first for each and both showed up with peaceful intentions.
“If we sit down and we can talk about our concerns and our issues, the things we like and dislike about our communities, that builds dialogue,” Long said. “What we did was, we were able to break the barriers and to communicate and to have understanding.”
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