A 12-year-old Mexican boy blocked antigay protesters marching Sunday against a proposal that would legalize same-sex marriage across the country.
In Celaya, Guanajuato, a reported 11,000 demonstrators took to city streets. An instantly iconic photograph shows a child with his arms spread, standing against oncoming police vehicles and a sea of protesters. The photographer, Manuel Rodriguez, told Regeneración that he thought the child was only joking, but the boy said the issue hit close to home for him.
“I have an uncle who is gay,” he told Rodriguez. “And I hate that people hate.”
The powerful image recalls Tank Man, the protester photographed blocking the path of a fleet of tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. This moment came to symbolize peaceful dissent in the Communist nation the day after the Chinese military quashed student-led demonstrations for democracy.
On Saturday, an estimated 300,000 people in 16 cities across Mexico marched against a wave of victories from marriage equality advocates in recent years. Currently, same-sex unions are recognized in nine of the country’s 31 states — including Chihuahua, Chipas, Jalisco, and Sonora — following a series of successful legal challenges to marriage bans.
President Enrique Nieto has further vowed to make marriage a constitutional right for same-sex couples, though his approval ratings are dismal, especially after he invited Donald Trump to Mexico City.
Nieto’s support has led to a widespread backlash from National Front for the Family, a coalition of faith-based groups opposed to the freedom to marry. The organization, who claims to have collected 100,000 signatures against same-sex marriage, was largely behind the nationwide protests.
Dressed in white, protesters marched with signs that read “Long live the natural family,” “Children need a father and a mother,” and “Wake up and defend the family.”
“Marriage is between a man and woman for the purpose of procreation,” Ariadna Leóna, a 39-year-old demonstrator in eastern Tijuana, told the Los Angeles Times. “We are asking for the respect of the nucleus of society, which is the family.”
Jose Alcantara, a spokesman for National Front for the Family, called the protest, which included Catholic priests, “something unprecedented … in defense of the family.”
While the BBC suggests that the turnout numbers were much lower than what was reported, there was a strong counterprotest across the conservative nation. Marriage equality supporters gathered in Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Sunday holding rainbow flags and signs reading “We are families, too” and “I respect your family, respect mine.”