An image of Patrick Hutchinson, with a man who was reported to be a rival protestor draped over his shoulder flanked by riot police, was widely shared on social media after demonstrations turned violent on Saturday.
Hutchinson, who is a personal trainer and grandfather, formed a group with four of his friends to protect young Black Lives Matter protesters from getting caught up in the violence of the protests.
The group took it upon themselves to be “overseers” at the protest and to take injured people safely to emergency service workers.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Hutchinson said he rushed to the man’s aide and carried him away from harm as he feared for his life.
Describing central London scenes “almost like a stampede”, Hutchinson said he spotted the man badly hurt on steps to Waterloo’s Royal Festival Hall.
Other protesters had also stepped in to protect him but Hutchinson said he did not hesitate to act.
The injured man’s identity is not yet known but people in the crowd have claimed he was at the counter-BLM demonstration, which was thought to have included many far-right activists.
Hutchinson later identified himself on social media, writing on his Instagram: “It’s not black versus white, it is everyone versus the racists. We had each other’s back and protected those who needed us.”
He has since given a full account of the incident to Channel 4.
Admitting it was a “scary” moment”, Hutchinson said he wondered what if someone had acted to help George Floyd - whose death sparked worldwide race protests - when he was in distress.
Floyd was a 48-year-old black man killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer who held his knee on for some nine minutes.
Recalling how the man “was already on the floor” on Saturday, Hutchinson said: “It was pretty hectic, it was almost like a stampede, there was lots of people. There were people trying to protect him but unsuccessfully.
“Then the guys went in there, they put a cordon around him to stop him receiving any more physical harm. He was under physical harm. His life was under threat.
“Whilst they did that I thought, ‘well if he stays here, he’s not going to make it.’ So I just went under, scooped him up, put him on my shoulders and started marching towards the police with him whilst all the guys were surrounding me and protecting me and the guy I had on my shoulder.
“I could actually feel strikes and hits as I was carrying him so these guys were probably taking some of that themselves on their person.
Hutchinson said he acted instinctively, adding: “You don’t think though at the time. You just do what you’ve got to do.
“I can only imagine... Last night when I was thinking about it, I was thinking to myself - if the other three police officers that were standing around when George Floyd was murdered, had thought about intervening and stopping their colleague from doing what he was doing like what we did, George Floyd would be alive today still.
“I was just the guy that was caught on camera with him on my shoulder, but all these guys were all party to it. Without them protecting me, I would have probably have got stampeded as well underneath it. So it was a team effort.”
A video of Hutchinson’s daughter cheering proudly at the interview clip on television was posted on social media.
His actions were praised on social media, with many describing the photo as “iconic”.
Claudia Webbe, MP for Leicester East, called him a “national hero”.
Hundreds of far-right protesters gathered in central London on Saturday to counter Black Lives Matter activists and “defend” statues and memorials.
More than 100 people were arrested, and six police officers suffered minor injuries in violent clashes as several hundred demonstrators, mostly white men, attended the protest, which was condemned by Boris Johnson as “racist thuggery”.
London Ambulance Service said it had treated 15 people for injuries, including two police officers. Six of these patients, all members of the public, had to be taken to hospital.
The violent scenes in Westminster contrasted with peaceful demonstrations that took place at Hyde Park and Marble Arch by anti-racism protesters in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Anti-racism protests were due to gather in Hyde Park at 1pm today, but were called off after Sadiq Khan warned Black Lives Matter organisers that far-right groups, including Britain First and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance were planning to hijack the rally.
While the official BLM protest had been called off over fears of conflict, there were reports of some skirmishes between anti-racism protesters and members of far-right groups outside Waterloo Station.