Remembering Democracy Movement In Tiananmen Square

Remembering Those Who Stood For Democracy in Tiananmen Squarelllll
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Tiananmen Square, Massacre, June 4, 1989

Tiananmen Square, Massacre, June 4, 1989

Photo by Catherine Bauknight

Tiananmen Square in Beijing was a celebratory place of hope for democracy when I arrived on the evening of June 3, 1989 to cover the protest for Sipa Press. Thousands of people on bicycles and students who had been camping out for several weeks seemed to see the possibility for change due to their passionate quest for a change in the iron hand of the Chinese Communist Government. Unarmed students were peacefully talking with the armed soldiers and handing out flowers in the square.

Forty-five minutes after I arrived in the square, the soldiers announced that people must leave the square or they would shoot to kill. Seemingly, this was taken only as a threat by the sea of people, as they would only shift to different areas of the square.

Suddenly, the atmosphere transformed into a bloody massacre. According to the Red Cross, approximately 3,000 people died that night during the protest. As the popping sound of the soldier’s automatic weapons echoed throughout the square, random people continued to silently drop to their knees and some to their death caused by bullet wounds. Many stood in front of the camera to show their wounds, proud to be active in the cause for democracy.

For hours, I continued to photograph while people led me through tunnels of hands directing me to the areas where the soldiers were firing guns into the crowd. This continued until bullets ricocheted at my feet and I ran to the outer limits of the square while continuing to shoot photographs as the students bravely continued to stand for democracy in the square.

The students motioned to me to photograph what was happening during the protest. “For the free world”, they would say. My commitment to the coverage was because I also believed that it would help the students get their message out to the free world, and that future generations would benefit from the documentation of the voice of the people in Tiananmen Square. Only five months later on November 9, 1989 The Fall of the Berlin Wall occurred which allowed the people ruled by East Berlin’s Communist Party to cross the boundaries of the wall into the freedom of the West. The movement in Tiananmen Square changed history not only for China but for the future of the world.

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