Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, Chinese troops violently retook the square in Beijing where pro-democracy protesters had set up camp for weeks. The Tiananmen Square massacre left an unknown number dead, with some estimates in the thousands, and smothered a democratic movement. But after a quarter-century—and a thorough attempt by the Chinese government to conceal the events that unfolded that June—our collective memory is sometimes limited to not much more than an image of a man defiantly standing in front of a tank.
So TIME went back in history to pull out the details, context and feelings of those grim days from our own unfolding coverage at the time, including a cover story from the June 12, 1989 issue. The articles give color, detail and context that are sometimes lost 25 years later.