Today marks the 16th anniversary of the infamous two days of violence in China’s Tiananmen Square, when the People’s Liberation Army ended months of pro-democracy protesting by moving in and confronting the protesters with military force on June 3rd and 4th, 1989.
The images from those events are powerful, even today. There are few people who aren’t immediately struck by the photo above, known as “The Unknown Rebel“, in which a single man stood out in front of a rolling column of Chinese tanks moving in on the protesters.
The video footage of this small, unarmed man is equally captivating, as he holds the tanks at bay for nearly a half-hour, stepping in front of them every time they try to turn and move around him. Eventually, he even crawls onto the lead tank and talks to the driver, though no one knows for sure what he said. Soon after that, nervous bystanders pulled him off the tank and into the crowd.
Though his identity and eventual fate were never completely confirmed, the “Unknown Rebel” was named in Time Magazine’s 1989 list of “the 100 most influential people of the 20th century“.