The photo only exists online in a few places, the largest found file about 400 x 347 pixels. The link to the original article it appeared in is now broken.
It’s hard to tell what is happening with just the image. The only clues are the gentleman to the left kneeling draped in what appears to be a cape and the girl standing.
This photo of Laquetta Shepard, a 24-year-old college junior at the time, has stuck with me for more than 12 years. Louisville Courier-Journal freelance photographer Jim Roshan took it in Bowling Green, Ky. on Aug. 31, 2002. Both Shepard and myself attended Western Kentucky University there at different times.
The headline of the accompanying story that ran in the newspaper and online reveals its true impact.
Shepard had planned to protest a Klu Klux Klan rally in the Warren County Justice Center parking lot that day. According to the story written by Debra Highland, there were about 29 Klansmen and their supporters at the gathering. Anti-Klan protestors outnumbered the hate group nearly 2-to-1.
Shepard explained to Highland that she started crying when she heard the Klan spouting their bigotry.
Then she found herself walking into Roshan’s frame.
Something came over Shepard and she decided to leave the protest area and walk over to the area cordoned off for Klan supporters.
”They have the freedom to stand there and say what they want, and I have the freedom to walk where I want to walk,” Shepard said. ”They told me I was standing in the wrong place.”
Shepard stood silently and trembled as tears streamed down her face.
The Klan supporter draped in a flag of the Klan then freaked out, the story states. He asked a Kentucky State Patrol trooper to tell Shepard to move back to the designated area for anti-Klan protestors.
The trooper told the Klan supporter Shepard was doing nothing wrong. The Klan rally dispersed a few moments later once they realized Shepard wasn’t moving.
The fact the image was caught on camera, that Shepard just did what she did remains inspiring. Roshan, the photographer, believes he was the only one to capture the moment that only lasted 10 to 15 seconds.
“All of the other photographer were fixated on the other crowd (protestors) and not watching the people in the back of that crowd,” he said.
I often wish more simple, nonviolent acts of courage such as Shepard’s were committed in order to dispel some of the evils in the world. Of course, it would also help if that evil came draped in bright red flags for all to see.