August 14, 2014
Ferguson Photo: Flag-Clad Protester Holds Potato Chips, Tosses Tear Gas — New Iconic Image

A photo that emerged Wednesday from the Ferguson, Missouri, riots immediately assumed iconic status as it went viral on the internet. One Facebook user who circulated the photo called it "the most g*d damn American image I've ever seen."

Taken and tweeted by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Robert Cohen, the photo seemed to sum up the anger felt by residents of Ferguson, where unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a still-unidentified police officer on Saturday night.

"This is the best Rage Against The Machine album cover ever," noted one Facebook commenter, comparing the photo to the anti-authoritarian images that adorned covers by the 1990s political rap-metal band.

The symbolism of the photo was undeniable. The image depicts a protester hurling a flaming tear gas canister back in the direction of the police who fired it. The protester wears an American flag shirt and clutches a bag of potato chips — or some kind of snack chips — in his left hand while hurling the tear gas grenade with his right.

The unidentified man in the Ferguson photo wears long dreadlocks which obscure his face, and — making the significance of the image complete — the man appears to be positioned in front of a "crime stoppers" sign.

The Ferguson unrest entered its fourth night Wednesday as protesters angry at the killing of Michael Brown ignored a police plea to disperse before sundown. The protesters say that witness accounts support the contention that the 18-year-old recent high school graduate was surrendering with his hands in the air when he was shot by a police officer. But police say that the officer was injured in a physical altercation with the teenager.

On Wednesday night, police fired tear gas and smoke bombs at protesters, who stood arm-in-arm refusing to move even as the police blared orders for the crowd to disperse through loudspeakers and armored police trucks blocked off streets.

Two journalists were briefly detained by police earlier in the day as they worked on their stories inside a McDonald's fast food restaurant. One of them, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, later tweeted about the incident.

Lowery was taken into custody along with Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly. resulting in a later, sardonic Twitter posting.Though the population of Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of about 21,000, is 67 percent black, only three of the city's 53-officer police force — just 5.6 percent — are African-American.

Though the Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown has not been identified, witnesses have identified him as a white male.