BATON ROUGE

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USA. Louisiana. Baton Rouge. July 9, 2016. Taking A Stand In Baton Rouge. Lone activist Ieshia Evans stands her ground while offering her hands for arrest as she is charged by riot police during a protest against police brutality. Evans, a 28-year-old Pennsylvania nurse and mother of one, traveled to Baton Rouge to protest against the shooting of Alton Sterling. 

Sterling was a 37-year-old black man and father of five, who was shot at close range by two white police officers. The shooting, captured on a multitude of cell phone videos, aggravated the unrest coursing through the United States in previous years over the use of excessive force by police, particularly against black men.

“I had been covering events in Baton Rouge after the shooting of Alton Sterling by two white police officers. My editor called that morning to say there was a demonstration planned for midday outside the police station, so I went straight over. I could feel the frustration and anger in the crowd, but there was no atmosphere of violence. A group of protesters blocked one lane of the highway, and that prompted a response from police officers in full riot gear. They told protesters they could not be in the street, and that if they gathered instead in the park nearby they would not be arrested. After chasing them into the park, the police retreated and formed a line across the highway.

I turned around and saw a woman I now know to be Ms Ieshia Evans standing there. Someone shouted, “Don’t stand there, they’re arresting people in the street.” Instinct took over – I quickly got into position and just held down the shutter as she was arrested. It can only have lasted 10 to 15 seconds. I knew this was a strong image, but I never anticipated that it would go viral. I was proud to have created a photograph that resonated with the world, and to have sparked an international conversation about police brutality and race relations in America.

I think it’s the composition and duality of the photograph that moved so many people. You just see a woman in a sundress, the fabric blowing in the breeze, standing up to male officers in full riot gear. It looks like she is repelling them with her grace, courage and power. You read stories about the strength and humanity of certain individuals, and that day I witnessed it. Two weeks ago, I met Ms Evans for the first time. I felt like I had come to know this woman in my image without ever meeting her properly. We had some time to sit and talk and get to know each other. It’s nice because we’re fellow north-easterners, so we can talk about things like winter and traffic – not so much the issues, just normal life.”

Contemporary Issues, First Prize, Singles at the World Press Photo Contest.

Photograph: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

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