Last Saturday, Louisiana’s Baton Rouge hosted yet another Black Lives Matter march, called for after Alton Sterling got shot on July 5th while he was defenselessly being held down to the ground by the police – events that were filmed and shared on social media. As the march neared the Baton Rouge police headquarter, officers leaped in action and urged everyone to clear the streets.
But that was not to the liking of the 28-year-old Ieshia Evans, who stayed right where she was, calmly crossing her arms while waiting for the police to come. As two officers moved in for the arrest, Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman captured a snap that quickly became a new symbolic depiction of the fight for equality.
Newspapers all over the world started using Bachman’s picture, while it also got noticed by social media users. One of them was Shaun King, senior writer for the NY Daily News. In a few days, his Facebook-post gathered more than 41,000 interactions, 30,000 shares and 2,300 comments. One of those comments, written by Jami West, got 17,000 likes on its own:
Look at her posture. She is balanced, powerful, upright and well grounded with both feet firmly planted on the earth. Look at the line made from the crown of her head to the heels of her feet. She is only protected by the force of her own personal power.
By contrast, the officers have the transitory, temporary, protection of their equipment that will be removed at the end of their shift. They are rocked back on their heels, knocked off balance, and appear about to fall over backward, just from the power of her.
This is a legendary picture. It will be in history and art books from this time.
Nevertheless, Ieshia became one of the 180 people who got arrested. “The arrest was rough, but all protesters were treated nicely in prison,” she told a friend, who spread the word. After 24 hours, the nurse from Pennsylvania was released. In a talk with news website The Wrap, she has her say about last weekend’s events:
“When the police pushed everyone off the street, I felt like they were pushing us to the side to silence our voices and diminish our presence. They were once again leveraging their strength to leave us powerless. As Africans in America we’re tired of protesting that our lives matter, it’s time we stop begging for justice and take a stance for our people. It’s time for us to be fearless and take our power back.”