By Michael E. Miller , Washington Post
Iconic photo of Ieshia Evans, a young Black woman protesting in Baton Rouge, LA
She was the calm at the center of the storm, a storm spreading across the country. The young woman stood silently on the cracked asphalt, her summer dress billowing in the breeze. Around her swirled a kinetic mix of police officers and protesters. Dozens of demonstrators had blocked Baton Rouge’s Airline Highway on Saturday to denounce the death four days earlier of Alton Sterling, shot by police outside a convenience store. Many protesters carried signs. Some shouted into bullhorns. A few carried guns.
A phalanx of police officers stepped across the road, dressed in riot gear.
Jonathan Bachman of Reuters News was snapping pictures of protesters yelling at the officers when he turned and saw her.
The woman in the summer dress didn’t seem to look at the two officers as they ran toward her. Instead, she seemed to look beyond them — even as they arrested her.
“She just stood there and made her stand,” the Reuters photographer told BuzzFeed. “I was just happy to be able to capture something like that.” Bachman’s powerful photo quickly went viral.
The young woman’s stoic pose drew comparisons to Rosa Parks’s refusing to give up a seat on a segregated bus or “tank man” facing down war machines in Tiananmen Square.
Some likened her to a modern-day Statue of Liberty, guiding a bitterly divided country back toward the proper path. Others called her a “superhero.”
Several, however, said she was simply breaking the law and deserved her night in jail.
What is clear is that the image of the young woman’s arrest has captured a critical moment for the country. Like the Facebook video of Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds calmly talking to the officer who had just fatally shot her fiance, the photo of the arrest in Baton Rouge encapsulates the anger, struggle, exhaustion and spirit of Black Lives Matter activists.
“There are certain photos that define a moment: The man in front of the tank in [Tiananmen] Square; the girl crying over her dead friend at Kent State; the sailor dipping and kissing the girl in Times Square; John John saluting JFK’s casket,” wrote Cynthia Cox Ubaldo on Facebook. “This is one of those iconic photos to define the moment and the movement.”
Bachman knew he had a great photo, but he didn’t get the woman’s name.
Within hours of the photo’s publication, news outlets, activists and the Internet itself were working overtime to figure out who she was. The Atlantic and the BBC both asked readers for help.
After activist and New York Daily News writer Shaun King posted the photo to Facebook, several self-identified friends and family members identified her as Ieshia Evans.
“To see all of the comments under this post shows me that my cousin did not make a mistake by going out there and standing up for her rights and what she believes in,” wrote Nikka Thomas. “I’m proud to call you my family Ieshia.”
“This is my best friend that I have known since we were 8 (20 years now),” wrote R. Alex Haynes. “Her name is Ieshia and she has a 5 year old son. She went to Baton Rouge because she wanted to look her son in the eyes to tell him she fought for his freedom and rights. They haven’t released her as of yet but she’s fine. And yes, she is everything you see in this photo + so much more.”
Haynes told The Washington Post that Evans is, in fact, the woman in the photo. He forwarded a statement from him and his wife, Natasha, saying that Ieshia is from Brooklyn and lives in Pennsylvania. (Public records support this.) Evans traveled to Baton Rouge after the fatal police-involved shooting of Alton Sterling because “she has a son she wants a better future for,” according to the statement.