As Inauguration day ended, there was a standoff taking place between 13th and 14th streets, and I noticed a person, with a jacket and a flag tie make his way to the front towards the police.
To me, it seemed to be someone who had come from one of the official inauguration events. He was arguing with the protesters when the police unleashed another stream of tear gas at the protesters. Those who had been at the barricades all day were expecting it and ducked or turned their faces, but the unsuspecting newcomer, caught the liquid right in the face.
He dropped to his knees as the crowed scattered. As he kneeled there screaming that he couldn’t breathe, a couple of the protesters grabbed him under the shoulders and carried him over to the 14th street and K street intersection where there were no police.
Another couple of people joined them, loudly exhorting him to breathe, open his mouth. A protester produced a bottle of milk and yelled at him to open his eyes and started pouring the milky liquid into his eyes. As he kneeled on the sidewalk, gasping for breath, eyes and face covered in milk, the small group told him to keep his eyes open and keep breathing.
He seemed to be recovering and in less pain as well as starting to breathe better when I stepped in close and took a couple of shots. As I did so, one of the protesters was telling the man, “Hey man, you ok? See, we are not all bad people.”
At that moment, some paramedics arrived and one of them immediately yelled, “no photos!” I put my camera away, hoping that at least one of the photos was good.
It was a very surreal scene, as he kneeled there in the falling light, lit by street lights, the contrast of clothes and appearance with those helping him, with his arms raised and milk streaming down his face and chest. It reminded me of a religious baptism. I titled the photo “Saved!” because he was physically saved by the protesters, and perhaps politically too, the baptism-like appearance suggested his salvation on yet another level.