The One Powerful Black Lives Matter Protest Photo You Need To See
In response to Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s fatal shootings by police in different cities last week, Black Lives Matter protests erupted in major cities and continued through the weekend. Hundreds of protesters were arrested across the country, and photos of well-known activist DeRay Mckesson being put in handcuffs by multiple officers quickly circulated social media sites. However, there’s one Black Lives Matter protest photo that fully symbolizes the movement’s commitment to peaceful action.
The image, taken by Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman, shows an unidentified female protestor calmly standing in a Baton Rouge street Saturday as two police officers in riot gear run to arrest her, an entire line of cops standing behind the two arresting officers. She was reportedly arrested for refusing to get off the highway. L’Jean McKneely, spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department, told CNN, “Everyone was given proper instructions and a certain amount of time to clear the roadway. If they did not, then they were arrested.”
The powerful photo has already become an iconic representation of Black Lives Matter protests and the struggle between black Americans and the police more broadly. The unnamed woman’s powerful, yet unthreatening, stance exudes confidence and portrays a different side to protest arrests than the photos of people clashing with cops often seen instead.
According to New York Daily News reporter Shaun King, she was released Sunday, as was Mckesson. Bachman told The Atlantic her peaceful actions reflected the overall scene in Baton Rouge, explaining how the situation unfolded and why he decided to photograph it:
“It happened quickly, but I could tell that she wasn’t going to move, and it seemed like she was making her stand. To me it seemed like: You’re going to have to come and get me. And I just thought it seemed like this was a good place to get in position and make an image, just because she was there in her dress and you have two police officers in full riot gear.
It wasn’t very violent. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t resist, and the police didn’t drag her off.”
More than 100 people were arrested in both Baton Rouge and St. Paul that night, with many in both cities taken into custody for blocking highways.
Protest photos of one lone protestor standing in opposition to a line of police officers have come to represent many historic protests, from the Vietnam War to Tiananmen Square in China. Now, Black Lives Matter protests join their ranks with his memorable image.