#8. Shield Maiden
This picture was taken at the Amona outpost, West Bank, when armed-to-the-teeth riot police raided the unarmed shanty-town to evict the settlers. There are about twenty cops on the other side of that shield, all of them rushing downhill at full-tilt toward one elderly Jewish woman who looks like she just dropped a casserole dish mid-wash when she realized she was late to the mid-afternoon riot.
Twenty riot police on full charge, against one old Jewish woman, and
She looks like she'd be denied a part in a LifeAlert commercial on the grounds of frailty, and here she is Gandalfing the holy shit out of two dozen riot cops.
Two things had to have happened after this photo: One, every single one of those cops turned around, went home, called their mothers and apologized for every cross word they'd ever said. And two: One very old Jewish lady picked herself up, dusted off her apron, walked calmly back to her home, closed the door, took a deep breath, hurled the stove through the wall to vent the excess energy, and then quietly finished scrubbing up.
#7. Gas Mask Guy
No, this isn't a screenshot of Fallout 4: New Athens; this was taken during the protests in Greece after their economy collapsed back in spring of 2010. When their government agreed to severe austerity measures that cut wages and benefits to public servants, and raised taxes on the rest of the citizens, but left the higher-ups largely untouched, the protests quickly turned into full-blown riots. Everything about this particular protester -- from the fact that he so accepted being tear-gassed that he brought his own mask, to his battle-corduroys, to his plain red flag apparently proclaiming his loyalty to berserker blood rage -- testifies that he has simply run out of fucks to give. And he didn't have all that many to begin with.
#6. Bee Man
It's one thing to go to a protest, with the screaming, and the tension, and the ever present threat of violence -- it's another thing to do all that while absolutely covered in bees. This is Ahn Sang-gyu, a South Korean bee farmer in a 2006 protest about a territorial dispute between Japan and Korea. He says he chose to cover himself with "187,000 bees to represent the 187,000 square meter dimensions of the islets" in contention, but that sounds like pretty shaky reasoning. It's far more likely a matter of familiarity bias: When you have absolute dominion over the insect kingdom, you tend to think every problem is just a matter of finding the right volume of bees to throw at it.
#5. The Kickbomber
Though it looks like he's caught in the middle of a 12 hit combo -- just after landing the fireball but right before the flying dragon kick -- this is actually a man in the midst of firebombing an empty policetruck during the anti-Mubarak riots in Egypt. Sure, plenty of destruction happens in a riot, and sure, the riot truck was empty to start with, but he's still dead-sprinting at an armored tank in what appear to be loafers; the fact that he can even get airborne with balls that dense is clear evidence of the Egyptian Basketball Team's terrifying efficiency.
Mubarak ran the gamut of cartoonish evil, from raising prices on food while cutting worker's wages, to running a state of fear and police brutality, but the final nail in his regime's coffin was shutting off the internet. In the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the internet, so I kick-bombed the shit out of a riot truck."
#4. Flaming Scarf Guy
Plenty of people see this picture and make jokes about that old action hero cliche: Cool guys don't look at explosions, they just turn and walk away. But that's not what's happening here, exactly. There's no indication that he's walking away from anything; he's entirely content where he is. He felt the hot breath of that multi-story fireball on his neck, and decided that a good precautionary measure for that kind of danger was to put a scarf on. If he casually strolls away from anything, it will be no less than the heat death of the sun.
#3. Surf Tha Police
You can fight the riot cops. You can scream at them, spit in their faces, accuse them of supporting fascism, and question their morals, their motives, and the integrity of their mother's vagina. Or you can give a giggling, psychotic finger to logic and reason, and opt instead to just pull a Dukes of Hazzard on those bastards. Hey, it makes sense: Those shields are like makeshift ramps, he probably got some sweet air.
This is yet a third Egyptian protester, and this image completes the most epic trilogy since Lord of the Rings. Yes, pictures are all a matter of timing, and yes, there was probably an unfortunate aftermath immediately after this, and no, it probably didn't do much to stop the police in the grand scheme of things. But for just this one single moment in time, this is a man dive-tackling an entire fucking precinct worth of riot cops and he is unquestionably succeeding.
#2. Dairy Rioter
This dairy farmer was protesting the EU headquarters in Brussels over rapidly falling milk prices. And that's...probably the least exciting protest that's ever been staged, wrestling away the #1 spot from long-standing champ: The "mail peanuts to executives to keep Jericho on the air" campaign. But this man did not earn his spot on a list populated with iconic badasses hurling grenades and roaring obscenities in the face of authority because of what he's doing here. He's on this list for what he did right before this, which was to take a look at all his friends as they geared up for the protest -- strapping on their gas masks, pocketing their eye wash, testing their tasers, and hefting their clubs - before solemnly reaching down and grabbing the one and only weapon he needed. Then he went to a riot armed with a tit.
#1. Water Cannon Man
You knew he was coming.
You knew because he's an internet staple by now. You knew because everything about him -- from his Superman-stance, to his contemptuous sneer, to his kickin' Cable-knit sweater ensemble -- is the very embodiment of defiance. But mostly you knew he was coming because you can't even show pictures of injustice without Water Cannon Man mysteriously popping out of the ground to stare them down until they burst into flame. This image was taken in South Korea during the APEC protests in 2005, when thousands of union workers tried to storm a meeting of the Pacific Rim leaders to protest a bill that opened their rice markets to foreign powers. And before you go writing this man off as an isolated event -- some sort of temporary avatar of badass on Earth, acting alone and against all odds like the Korean John McClane -- you should probably watch the rest of the video:
If you don't have enough patience for the build-up, just skip ahead to the payoff at 2:06, when the farmers all band together, hurl their grapples into the gargantuan steel shipping containers that the police are hiding behind, and then pull them to the ground with their bare hands before throwing them into the god damn sea. You can even see what looks like a dry Water Cannon Man standing off to the side at 1:53. Which means that he either hadn't made his iconic stand yet, or far more likely, that his clothes were simply dried by the residual heat emanating outward from him when he Optic Blasted injustice in the dick.
Source: Robert Brockway, The 8 Most Ridiculously Badass Protesters Ever Photographed, Cracked.com, 23 March 2011