June 3, 1989. After seven weeks of protests led by students and intellectuals demanding democratic reform, Chinese authorities send troops to take back control of Beijing and its central Tianenmen Square. At the height of the protest movement as many as a million people were in the world’s biggest public square. Some tanks were set alight by protesters and troops responded by firing live rounds. Fierce battles raged in the streets around Tianenmen and on June 4 the army began to access and clear the square itself. The iconic footage of Tank Man (see picture) was taken on June 5 when the army was making its way out of the square. The exact fate of the man who defied the tanks remains to this day unknown. Estimates of civilian casualties in the crackdown range from hundreds to several thousand.
Also on June 3: John Adams becomes the first US president to take residence in Washington DC (1800); England’s Duke of Windsor marries American commoner Wallis Simpson (1937); Israel’s ambassador to the UK is shot in a street in London (1982).
Born on June 3: Tony Curtis (1925), Raul Castro (1931), Curtis Mayfield (1942), Wasim Akram (1966).
Back in the Day: the Tianenmen crackdown begins