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.
MADRID Spain — The Black Lives Matter movement that’s arisen in response to police shootings of black men is part of a long line of protest movements that have transformed America for the better, President Obama said Sunday, defending the protests amid renewed tensions over race and policing across the country. But he also acknowledged that those debates are often “messy and controversial,” and urged protesters to “maintain a respectful, thoughtful tone” after a week of deadly shootings — both of African-American men by police and of police officers by a Dallas gunman.
Obama cut short his four-day trip to Europe and instead will go to Dallas Tuesday to speak an an interfaith prayer service, the White House announced Sunday. He’ll also devote most of the week working on police issues, aides said.
Obama has spoken about the events of last week four times in the last three days, even as he’s juggled an important foreign trip with NATO allies in Warsaw and Spanish leaders in Madrid. But Sunday’s comments were focused on the social media-fueled protest movement that has has brought national attention to the issue of police shootings.
And they came the day after DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, was arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge. That’s where police shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in an incident caught on video and widely shared on social media last Tuesday — the first of three incidents that brought issues of race and policing exploding back into the headlines.
On CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist” and that police feel it “puts a target on their back.” “They sing rap songs about killing police officers and they talk about killing police officers and they yell it out at their rallies and the police officers hear it,” Giuliani said
Obama condemned the more extreme voices, while defending the movement as a whole. “In a movement like Black Lives Matter there are always going to be folks who say things that are stupid or imprudent or over generalized or harsh,” Obama said after meeting with acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
“Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause,” Obama said, calling violence against police a “reprehensible” crime that needs to be prosecuted. “But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people … if the rhetoric does not recognize that, then we’re going to lose allies in the reform cause.”
Even before a sniper killed five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Obama has gone out of his way to acknowledge both the evidence of bias in policing and the difficult and dangerous job that police officers have. “There are legitimate issues that have been raised,” he said. “And there is data and evidence to back up the concerns that are being expressed.”
Obama praised the Dallas police department and its chief, David Brown. “That’s part of why it’s so tragic that those officers were targeted in Dallas, a place that is because of its transparency and training and openness and engagement has drastically brought down the number of police shootings.”
Just as protesters need to be respectful of police, the law enforcement community needs to listen the frustrations of people in minority communities, Obama said, and “Not just dismiss these protests and these complaints as political correctness or as politics or attacks on police.”.
The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson swore in a new police chief on Monday, turning to a veteran African-American officer from Miami to try to help the department rebound less than two years after racially-charged protests put the community in the international spotlight.
Delrish Moss, 51, who beat out 50 other applicants for the post, takes over after the city in March agreed to terms of a Justice Department consent decree to overhaul the troubled department. The city was plunged into racial turmoil after the shooting death of an unarmed Black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. During his 32 years on the Miami force, Moss served as patrol officer, a member of the homicide unit and most recently as public information officer.
“A lot of answers lie in Ferguson, not necessarily from some magic pill that I’m going to bring to the city,” Moss told KSDK-TV in an interview shortly before he was sworn in on Monday. “I think when you listen to people, when people are having a dialogue back and forth, I think they come to respect each other even if they disagree. I hope that’s going to work for me.”
Ferguson became a potent symbol for frayed relations between police and African-American communities throughout the country following the August 2014 shooting death of Brown, 18, by officer Darren Wilson. Brown was Black and Wilson is white.
Wilson has since left the Ferguson department. A St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the Justice Department declined to charge the ex-cop for the fatal shooting that came after a struggle between the officer and Brown on a Ferguson street.
Moss replaces former Ferguson Police chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in March 2015 after a DOJ report offered withering criticism of the department’s policies and practices. The DOJ investigation revealed endemic problems in the treatment of African-Americans by Ferguson’s police and court system.
The city of 21,000 has a budget of about $14 million and is facing about $2.8 million in debt as it goes about implementing the mandated reforms. Much of the debt accrued from police overtime during the unrest following Brown’s death and lost tax revenue from businesses destroyed or badly damaged in rioting.
The agreement calls for a revision in the police department’s training with an emphasis “toward de-escalation and avoiding force — particularly deadly force — except where necessary.”
Ferguson is also required to recruit a more diverse force. Currently, only a handful of officers on the more than 50-officer force are African-American in a city that is nearly 70% Black.