Every now and then, when someone stands up to injustice, there’s a photographer nearby who catches the iconic moment on film.

These images are a testament to what brave people can do when faced with injustice that may seem insurmountable, and may even destroy them. Here are some of the great moments in human defiance.


The tank man of Tiananmen Square

The day after the Chinese government brutally cracked down on the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, a single unidentified man stood in front of the oncoming tanks. The image—captured by five photographers, most of whom were in the Beijing Hotel—has become one of the best-known symbols of defiance of all time. As the man is unknown, his fate is unknown as well.


The Stonewall riots

In the '50s and '60s in America, the police regularly raided gay establishments and shut them down, but when they raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969, the crowd spontaneously decided to fight back. The ensuing riots are now widely considered to be the start of the modern gay rights movement.


The Olympic Black Power salute

When American Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals (respectively) in the 200 meter race in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, they raised their gloved fists for the duration of the American National Anthem. While the gesture is largely considered a symbol of the Black Power movement, Smith and Carlos suggested it was a show of solidarity for all human rights. The silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, was also a staunch opponent of racism.


The fall of the Berlin Wall

A protester straddles the soon-to-fall Berlin Wall at the end of the Cold War.


Making out in front of Westboro

It's become a popular way to counter-protest the awful homophobic Westboro Baptist Church: making out in front of them. No matter how many variations there are of these pictures, they're always delightful.


Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus

This photo of Rosa Parks was taken the day after the legal integration of Montgomery's bus system. This advance was the direct result of a boycott of the city's buses initiated after Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.


The Newsboys Strike of 1899

The Newsboys Strike was a youth-led campaign for higher wages for the deplorably treated newspaper boys of New York City. The strike was a notable early moment in the child labor movement.


Mahatma Gandhi at his spinning wheel

As part of his campaign against British imperialism, Gandhi encouraged Indians to spend time each day at a spinning wheel creating their own cloth, rather than spending money on British-made cloth. The image is now so inextricable from Indian history that the spinning wheel is featured on the Indian flag.


Vancouver riots kiss

Okay, so technically this isn't anyone standing up to injustice—after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup, Canucks fans rioted in the streets of Vancouver. Riot police stepped in, and this photo was snapped. The couple in the photo are Alexandra Thomas and her boyfriend Scott Jones. Thomas was knocked down by the cops and Jones was comforting her. Either way, the image of love in the midst of violence took off immediately on the internet.


Flower Power

This iconic photo was taken during a Vietnam War protest in Washington, DC. When a squad of National Guard members kept the protesters from approaching the Pentagon, a number of famous photos were taken, including the one above of 17-year-old Jan Rose Kasmir by French photographer Marc Riboud, and also this one of an unknown protester. Kasmir was part of the pacifist "Flower Power" movement.


Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech

MLK, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is widely considered one of the most powerful of all time, and encapsulates the entire civil rights movement he was fighting for.


Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The 1936 Olympics were supposed to be a showcase for Hitler's Germany, and in many ways, were a great success for the Führer. But American runner Jesse Owens—deemed "subhuman" according to Nazi doctrine—won four gold medals, and reportedly left Hitler furious.


Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation

Thich Quang Duc was a Buddhist monk who burned himself alive in the streets of Saigon in 1963 in protest of the government crackdown on Buddhists. His protest caused huge problems and led John F. Kennedy to say, "No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one." The protest would be repeated nearly 50 years later by a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi, which kicked off the massive uprising known as the Arab Spring.


Suffragettes in London

Women's suffrage was achieved (much later than is remotely okay) because of early women's rights activists like these.


Nelson Mandela's release

When Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 after 27 years in prison, he helped cultivate an attitude of forgiveness in South Africa that would lead to a peaceful transition out of the apartheid regime.


Madres of Plaza de Mayo

When the far-right Argentine government started "disappearing" (read: kidnapping them, torturing them, murdering them, and then dumping their bodies out of planes into the Atlantic) political opponents, leftists, academics, and clergy, much of the population was silent. But then the mothers of the disappeared started demonstrating in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo, in defiance of the military government. Many of them were "disappeared" themselves. Known as the "Madres of Plaza de Mayo," they are still active in Argentina in working to uncover the fates of their children.


The pepper spray protesters

During a nonviolent Occupy protest on the campus of UC Davis, this image was captured of a police officer calmly shooting pepper spray directly into the eyes of sitting protesters. The image went viral and instantly became a meme, and a symbol for the overreaction of police forces to the Occupy movement.


The White Rose

The White Rose was a German pacifist resistance group in Munich. They dropped leaflets in favor of freedom of speech and freedom of religion all across the country until, in 1943, the six most prominent members were captured and beheaded by the Gestapo.


Oscar Romero

After the murder of one of his friends—also a priest—Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, began to use his position to speak out against social injustice, poverty, and the torture and executions committed by the Salvadoran government and military. For this, he was murdered in the middle of giving Mass, by a member of a United States-backed death squad. He remains a symbol of the people in El Salvador to this day.


Joseph Welch vs. Joseph McCarthy

During one of the hearings of Joseph McCarthy's appalling anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s, Joseph Welch, the head counsel for the United States Army, was asked to testify against a young lawyer when he burst out with, "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" This outburst, along with the report of journalist Edward R. Murrow, helped to finally end McCarthyism.


The Arab Spring

Touched off by the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, the protests and uprisings of the Arab Spring managed to topple demagogues across the Arab world and led to an outpouring of support for democracy among these nations. While the results have been at best mixed, hardly enough time has passed for us to pass judgment on the Arab Spring.


Live Aid

Say what you want about "Feed the World," ("There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas"? Who gives a shit?), Live Aid, the massive concert organized by Bob Geldof to fight famine in the third world is estimated to have raised £150 million. That's a lot of mouths that are no longer hungry, and all thanks to awesome music.


Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Disgusted with the war in Vietnam, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg decided, at great personal risk, to leak the Pentagon Papers, a set of documents that revealed the administration knew how destructive and unwinnable the war would be. The leak not only helped turn public opinion against the war, but set several legal precedents for whistleblowers and freedom of the press.


Malala Yousafzai shot

After actively campaigning for the right of young girls to go to school, at age 14, Malala Yousafzai was tracked down and shot in the head by the Taliban. She managed to survive and, despite further threats, has continued to campaign for girls' education in Afghanistan.


Cesar Chavez and the Delano Grape strike and boycott

In protest of the low pay given to grape pickers—their demands were that they be paid at least minimum wage—Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers and a number of other groups led a 5-year boycott against California grape growers. The successful boycott was one of the first actions that brought attention to the plight of migrant workers in the United States.


Julia Butterfly Hill and the tree-sit

In order to keep the Pacific Lumber Company from clear-cutting redwoods, Julia "Butterfly" Hill climbed 180 feet into a redwood named Luna and lived there for 2 years. The tree (and all trees around it for 200 feet) were saved, and a deal was reached with the loggers.


Crystal Lee Sutton forms a Union

When she was fired from her job in a textile plant for trying to form a union, Crystal Lee Sutton went to the middle of the factory floor, wrote “UNION” on a piece of cardboard, and silently turned it around on the floor. The rest of the factory workers shut off their machines and held the “V for Victory” sign. She was forcibly removed, but her act won the workers a union. Note: As no picture of the actual event exists, this photo is from Norma Rae, the film based on Sutton’s life, starring Sally Field.


Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest

Aung San Suu Kyi, the peaceful Burmese pro-democracy activist, was under house arrest on and off for 21 years. Though she was allowed to leave Burma several times during this period, she chose not to for fear that she wouldn’t be able to come back. Her husband died while she was under house arrest. She was released in 2010.


The Second Battle at Wounded Knee

To protest corruption on the Pine Ridge Reservation, as well as more general and longstanding grievances with the US government, a group of American Indian Movement activists occupied the symbolic site of Wounded Knee. The following siege by US Marshals and FBI led to 3 deaths, but managed to bring national attention to the poor treatment of American Indians by the federal government.


Elizabeth Eckford goes to school

Elizabeth Eckford was a member of the Little Rock 9—the first group of black students to be allowed into Little Rock’s segregated school system. In this picture, she calmly walks to school while being pursued by a hostile white mob.


Horace Greasley confronts Himmler

British POW Horace Greasley was a badass. He escaped the Nazi war camp he was in 200 times as part of a love affair, and when Himmler toured the camp, he confronted him, as seen in this picture.


Christian protesters protect Muslims during prayer

The Arab Spring in Egypt has been marred in many cases by religious violence. But this picture, taken in 2011, shows Christian protesters protecting Muslim protesters during their daily prayers from the government forces that often rode through Tahrir Square and attacked them.


A child vs. austerity

After the 2008 crash, some European nations instituted serious austerity measures, which were met with protests. During one such action, this child walked up to the riot police and handed them a heart-shaped balloon.