Charlottesville, Virginia, native Corey Long became an Internet icon on Saturday (August 12) after The Associated Press’ Steve Helber took this widely-circulated photo of him fending off White supremacists in the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally: 


That’s Long on the right, shooting fire at a group of Confederate flag-wielding White men standing nearby. The 23-year-old elder care worker explained what was happening in the photo—including the alleged failure of patrolling Virginia State Police officers to intervene when White nationalists began attacking counter-protesters—in an interview published by The Root yesterday (August 14). 

“At first it was peaceful protest,” Long says. “Until someone pointed a gun at my head. Then the same person pointed it at my foot and shot the ground.”

Long adds that that altercation prompted him to take a spray paint can—which another White supremacist threw at him earlier in the day—and use a lighter to ignite the discharged paint and fend off the attacking mob. Long says the elderly White man standing beside him was a fear-stricken fellow counter-protester whom he and his friends surrounded to protect from further violence.

Other photos from Saturday show riot gear-clad Virginia State Police officers patrolling areas occupied by White supremacists and counter-protesters, but Long says that those officers did nothing to prevent the supremacists’ violent attacks. 

“The cops were protecting the Nazis, instead of the people who live in the city,” Long says. “The cops basically just stood in their line and looked at the chaos. The cops were not protecting the people of Charlottesville. They were protecting the outsiders.”

The Root identifies Long as a friend of Deandre Harris, whom the outlet also interviewed about a viral photo that showed members of the neo-Confederate League of the South beating him in a parking garage. “The beating happened right beside the police department, and no police were there to help me at all,” Harris said.

Long told The Root that he and other friends were able to move Harris into a nearby stairwell, which White supremacists tried to storm, while photographers ”just stood around recording everything.”

The Washington Post reports that Charlottesville Police Department chief Al Thomas Jr. rejected criticisms like Long and Harris’ during a press conference yesterday. Thomas insisted that the department had a “very large footprint” in preventing and stopping street confrontations.