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Montana protester who stared down angry white man in viral photo says she wanted him to acknowledge her humanity

Posted at 10:38 AM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 17:06:49-04

A photo of an angry white man looking directly into the eyes of a peaceful black woman protester went viral earlier this week. The woman staring back at him, Samantha Francine, told CBSN she can't believe the powerful image is of her.

"I was like, oh, my gosh — that's me in that photo. And a lot of comments that came after that were like, 'Can you believe this picture is in 2020?'" Francine told CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers.

"With everything going on I immediately just thought 'wow, what a powerful photo,' then I realized it was me," she wrote on Facebook.

"This looks like this is — should be in the Civil Rights Movement. Why is this happening now? I wish I didn't have to be in that photo. I wish that the world was different. But since I'm in that photo, I want to own it. And I want to live it," she told CBSN.

The photo was taken when the man, later identified by police as Jay Snowden, 51, accosted a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in Whitefish, Montana, and began shouting profanities. A video of the incident shows Snowden yelling into the faces of protesters until finally being guided away by a police officer.

RELATED: Montana man charged after confrontation during George Floyd death protest

When he approached Francine she raised her sunglasses, forcing Snowden to look into her eyes. She said she wanted him to acknowledge her humanity.

"The words are still hard to find, but I wanted to share the one thing that did go through my mind in this moment," she wrote on Facebook. "As a child, I grew up with a single white father and who was originally from Chicago. He taught us from a young age that things were going to be different for us just because of the color of our skin. One of the things he use to remind us constantly was that 'no matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you're human.'"

She wrote that her father passed away 16 years ago this month, but that his words were in her head when she was confronted with this moment. "When I lifted up my glasses, he saw me. I saw him. He was acting out fear, I know that. I hold no malice in my heart for this man. I hope this moment will soften him. I hope he will be changed. But even if he isn't, I am."