polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Remembering Tiananmen Square

by Natalia Echeverri

Twenty-three years ago today — on June 4, 1989 — hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators were assaulted in and around Tiananmen Square by the Chinese army. The protesters, many of whom were students, had been demanding economic and political reform in the weeks leading up to the event. The square, said to be the largest public space in the world, was at times completely occupied. Soldiers were ordered to retake the square, and as they moved through the streets of Beijing, they opened fire on the civilians. Although it is unknown how many people died, some estimates place the figure in the thousands.

Student demonstration on May 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square. Source: Time

This specific moment in time, in a unique place under unique and complex political and social situations, somehow bears images that are timeless and strikingly familiar.

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