By Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) – The black woman in the photograph stands in calm protest, her long dress fluttering in the breeze as two policemen clad in the heavy black padding and helmets of riot gear rush to remove her from a roadway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Officers took about 180 people into custody over the weekend in the state capital, mostly on misdemeanor charges accusing them of blocking traffic on a major thoroughfare during protests over recent police shootings of black men.
But the standoff with one woman, identified by friends as Ieshia Evans and captured in a widely used image by Reuters freelance photographer Jonathan Bachman, has encapsulated for some the spirit of demonstrators across the United States protesting in the past week what they decry as unjust treatment of minorities by police.
“You’ll be seeing this iconic photo from #BatonRouge & versions of it, for the rest of your life,” a man named David Law said on Twitter on Monday.
The Atlantic magazine called the image, which prompted comments on social media from around the world, “a single photo from Baton Rouge that’s hard to forget.” The Washington Post said it “captured a critical moment for the country,” while Britain’s Daily Mail website called it “an iconic arrest photo.”
Evans is a licensed practical nurse who lives in Pennsylvania, according to online records and a Facebook page that appears to belong to her.
“This is the work of God,” she wrote on Facebook after her arrest. “I am a vessel! Glory to the most high! I’m glad I’m alive and safe.”
Baton Rouge has become a flashpoint for protesters after Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed last week by city police who were responding to a call that he had threatened someone with a gun outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs.
Sterling’s death, followed by the fatal shooting of another black man, Philando Castile, 32, near St. Paul, Minnesota, revived a wave of protests over police treatment of minorities that has swirled for two years and given rise to a movement called Black Lives Matter.
‘MAKING HER STAND’
Evans, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, traveled to Baton Rouge “because she wanted to look her son in the eyes to tell him she fought for his freedom and rights,” according to R. Alex Haynes, who said on Facebook he had known Evans since childhood.
A jail log from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office showed an Ieshia Evans, 35, was booked on a charge of simple obstruction of a highway and had been released from custody.
Reuters could not reach Evans for comment on Monday.
Bachman said police had cleared a group of protesters, including members of the New Black Panther Party carrying bullhorns and shotguns, from the road before Evans walked onto the highway and stood before a wall of officers. Her face bore no expression and she did not speak, he said.
“To me, it seemed like she was making her stand and she was like, ‘You’re going to have to come and get me,'” the photographer said in an interview.
Bachman said the officers grabbed Evans and hurried her away, with the whole incident lasting only about 30 seconds.
After her arrest, Evans ended another Facebook post with, “Peace, love, blk power! #blacklivesmatter.” She asked friends not to give interviews on her behalf, saying she wanted to tell her own story, but said later she was not ready to speak to reporters.
“I want to get home to my son,” she wrote. “I’ve been through a lot.”
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Additional reporting by Melissa Fares and Amy Tennery in New York and Bryn Stole in Baton Rouge, La.; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)