Brad Will, was killed in Oaxaca Mexico on Friday by paramilitaries who did not want him reporting on the killing and brutalization of the local residents who have been staging a 5 month occupation of their city.
Brad is a friend of mine. He was a tireless activist, journalist and environmentalist. I have been on many front lines with Brad staring down the barrel of over-reaction and militarization of the police force who are used by the corporation as security gaurds to enforce their plunder of the planet. Brad was there to say no and stand-up for equality, but he was also there as a journalist, reporting on the stories that aren’t meant to be heard. Brad took it to the highest level. He helped set up independent media centers in Latin America, he traveled the world, he kept his camera rolling on the truth and eventually it took his life.
He died doing what he loved. We always talked about tactics, cameras and about…”getting that shot.”
Brad was also a hard working local activist, working on the grass roots issues of our community. He was a cyclist and was passionate about riding.
I will miss you brother. Thanks for all you have done for us and your never ending love for the people. You will be greatly missed.
Here is an account of local Oaxaca activists who had an eye-witness report of Brad’s murder.
NOTE: This account is not meant to be a complete account of the day, it is meant to be from the perspectives and experiences of two people in the midst of what can only be described as a battle in the streets of Santa Lucia, in Oaxaca. We know that other things happened in other neighborhoods, and that other things probably happened in our vicinity. This is our best effort at capturing the events that we experienced and witnessed.
On Thursday night, Barricade Three in Santa Lucia del Camino set up a little earlier than normal. Reinforcing the barricades for Friday’s day of action required more trucks and buses than usual. At times, it was a chaotic scene with camiÃ³n after camiÃ³n joining the barricade and people unsure of where they should go. Eventually things calmed down. Many more people than usual guarded the barricade and the tranquility of the night had many regulars taking time to lie down, if not sleep. As day broke, the barricade took on the feel of a community holiday or small block party with small children running about. At what felt like an informal pot-luck, people brought tortillas and beans, sandwiches, bread, and arroz con leche. Most chose to not cover their faces, despite this being a regular practice at the barricades. Up to this point, the only “contentious” moment was the permitted approached of a chicken truck that surprised several people.
Sudenly, about a dozen people started shouting, donning masks, picking up Molotov cocktails (known as bombas Molotov) and cohetes (large bottle rockets typically shit out of PVC pipes the people call bazookas), and collecting rocks and sticks. A small group moved forward to see why a truck that was part of the barricade (about 200 feet away) was moving and investigate a commotion on the other side of that barricade. After advancing about 100 feet, the group spotted 150 to 200 PrÃistas (supporters of the authoritarian PRI party that ruled Mexico for 70 years and currently “rule” the state of Oaxaca) marching toward the barricade. The cohetes were fired into the air to warn the PrÃistas not to approach. The warning was ignored.
The tiny group of defenders fell back to the barricade and gathered more supplies. It was a chaotic situation. Prioritizing in the moment, a split second decision was made to leave our bags, in part because rocks from the PrÃistas were already falling where our bags lay. As we sprinted down side streets to the closest barricade, there were shouts for children to go inside their homes to safety. At the next barricade, people were banging on poles and railing to sound the alarm and rally the neighborhood to fight the PrÃista advance. People came out of their homes and armed themselves with sticks, machetes, metal poles, cohetes and rocks. Once a fairly large crowd had gathered several people started shouting “Vamos, compaÃ±erQos, Vamos!” (Let’s go) and “Avanza!” (advance). People began advancing to the fallen barricade and the PrÃistas, spreading out along the width of the four-lane highway, it’s median, and sidewalks. Both sides fired their cohetes, and as we drew nearer rocks started flying from both sides. We pushed the PrÃistas back passed the remnants of the now disassembled barricade. There was a lull of about thirty seconds as we populated the area around the barricade before many decided to chase the still-visible PrÃistas only about 100 feet away from us. Though most of them retreated faster than we advanced, one unlucky PrÃistas was forced to choose his own safety and well-being over that of his fancy SUV. The look of regret was visible on his face as rocks crashed to the ground around him and he turned and ran. The SUV, lacking a license plate, briefly became the target instead of the retreating PrÃistas. Tires slashed, windows smashed, someone decided to ensure that it was beyond use and set it ablaze. While some focused their attention on the SUV, some continued to chase the PrÃistas. Most PrÃistas had scattered into nearby homes and businesses, so people re-grouped back at the barricade.
As we all clustered in the intersection, the two of us looked around and estimated that there were at least 500 people ready to defend their neighborhood. We were both amazed by what we were seeing. Neither of us had ever witnessed such an incredible display of collective self-defense. We both nearly cried at the inspiring sight of people successfully working together to ward off aggression without centralized leadership. The barricade reclaimed, sandbags replaced, and the PrÃistas pushed back, the battle appeared for a few moments, to be over.
We’re unsure as to the exact reason for the second advance, but we believe that PrÃistas were again spotted at the next intersection where they had scattered minutes before. As we cautiously advanced, walking in cover when possible, shots were heard from the intersection and everyone ducked or ran for cover. Many corporate news outlets, most notably those relying on AP “reporter” Rebeca Romero (widely believed to be on Ulises Ruiz’s payroll), have claimed it was “unclear” as to who shot first. It was the PrÃistas. From the ground, on the receiving end of the gunfire, there is no doubt as to who shot first. There is nothing “unclear” about it. It was the PrÃistas, shown by El Universal photos and local television to be armed to the teeth, who shot first. After the shooting stopped, the group moved quickly to the other side of the road and to the corner where the shots had originated from. The attacking PrÃistas had retreated back away from the highway and deeper into the neighborhood. Fifty to 100 people slowly advanced north a block into the neighborhood while 200 people gradually moved up, either by going north, or approaching it from the west by way of the barricade. Again the group moved north, taking cover by vehicles parked along the street. In addition to shooters at the far end of the street, more PrÃistas were taking cover inside a building along the street. The building was targeted with Molotovs, rocks, bricks, and cohetes. Someone kicked the door in before PrÃistas down the street started shooting again and we had to retreat back to the end of the block. This gave the PrÃistas time to close and blockade the door. A few attempts with similar results gave way to milling about, as we waited for reinforcements. One block west towards the barricade, about 100 people had gathered to take cover from additional PrÃistas on that street. Soon we heard a truck roar to life and a few minutes later, compaÃ±eros in a dump truck came to provide shielding for another advance. In the first such advance, the truck went too far down the road, shooting started again, at which point we fell back to the end of the block. Most waited there while the truck maneuvered itself horizontally across the street in front of the gate of the targeted building. Once the truck was ready, another advance began and the truck smashed open the gate. Another round of shooting began, and again everyone took cover and began to withdraw.
At this point, Brad Will, an Indymedia reporter from New York, was shot in the abdomen as he was filming. Many people ran to carry him around the block and down the street. As we waited for a car to arrive to take him to the hospital, efforts were made to keep him conscious and breathing, including CPR. As Brad showed signs of consciousness and movement, the crowd surrounding him cheered. He was carried into a car and driven to the hospital. Moments later, as people were still taking in what happened, it started to rain. People gathered up the Molotovs and cohetes and got them out of the rain. About a half hour later, people started to gradually head back to the barricade.
When we arrived at the barricade, we learned from a teary-eyed compaÃ±ero that Brad had died on his way to the hospital. People from APPO such as Flavo Sosa arrived at the scene and were attempting to coordinate with the rest of the city where there had been other attacks. Hundreds of bottles were being filled and prepared as Molotov cocktails. Thanks to the help of several compaÃ±eras, we recovered one of our bags; though the other which contained a passport, several forms of id, travelers checks, over $1,000 pesos (most of which was intended to be used for the barricade), a video camera, is gone and was presumably stolen by the PrÃistas. Hundreds remained at the barricade for the night. The two of us went to a compaÃ±ero’s house to rest, write and watch the news.
As of this writing, the PrÃistas have set up their own barricades within the neighborhood, APPO has activated the mobile brigades, 4 or 5 people have died, dozens injured, and barricade 3 remains up, reinforced, and alert. Among the attackers were local municipal police (such as Abel Santiago ZÃ¡rate and Juan Carlos Soriano Velasco) and politicians/PRI thugs (such Manuel Aguilar and Pedro Carmona, the man identified as Brad Will’s killer), all from the neighborhood. Though the two of us had slightly differing expectations of how the day would pan out, neither of us expected an attack of this kind or magnitude in broad daylight. The diversity of people who fought the PrÃista attackers was astounding. We saw young kinds helping to gather cohetes and Molotovs. We saw old women armed with rocks making their way to the front. We saw people wearing circle As, hammer and sickles, and people who didn’t wear their political identity on their sleeves. In the end, it didn’t matter who you were, only what side you stood on.
La lucha sigue; the struggle continues.
“Tenemos dos manos y un corazÃ³n para luchar.”
“We have two hands and a heart to struggle.”
Two Poggers in Oaxaca
We didn’t know Brad before meeting him here in Oaxaca, and wish to direct you to accounts of his life that are better than anything we would be able to write. Our thoughts go to his family, friends, and loved ones.
illustration of Brad from FLY:
Brad Will was killed on October 27, 2006, in Oaxaca, Mexico, while working as a journalist for the global Indymedia network. He was shot in the torso while documenting an armed, paramilitary assault on the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, a fusion of striking local teachers and other community organizations demanding democracy in Mexico.
The members of the New York City Independent Media Center mourn the loss of this inspiring colleague and friend. We want to thank everyone who has sent condolences to our office and posted remembrances to www.nyc.indymedia.org. We share our grief with the people of our city and beyond who lived, worked, and struggled with Brad over the course of his dynamic but short life. We can only imagine the pain of the people of Oaxaca who have lost seven of their neighbors to this fight, including Emilio Alonso Fabian, a teacher, and who now face an invasion by federal troops.
All we want in compensation for his death is the only thing Brad ever wanted to see in this world: justice.
We, along with all of Brad’s friends, reject the use of further state-sponsored violence in Oaxaca.
The New York City Independent Media Center supports the demand of Reporters Without Borders for a full and complete investigation by Mexican authorities into Oaxaca State Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s continued use of plain-clothed municipal police as a political paramilitary force. The arrest of his assailants is not enough.
The NYC IMC also supports the call of Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos “to compaÃ±eros and compaÃ±eras in other countries to unite and to demand justice for this dead compaÃ±ero.” Marcos issued this call “especially to all of the alternative media, and free media here in Mexico and in all the world.”
Indymedia was born from the Zapatista vision of a global network of alternative communication against neoliberalism and for humanity. To believe in Indymedia is to believe that journalism is either in the service of justice or it is a cause of injustice. We speak and listen, resist and struggle. In that spirit, Brad Will was both a journalist and a human rights activist.
He was a part of this movement of independent journalists who go where the corporate media do not or stay long after they are gone. Perhaps Brad’s death would have been prevented if Mexican, international, and US media corporations had told the story of the Oaxacan people. Then those of us who live in comfort would not only be learning now about this 5 month old strike, or about this 500 year old struggle.
And then Brad might not have felt the need to face down those assassins in Oaxaca holding merely the ineffective shields of his US passport and prensa extranjera badge. Then Brad would not have joined the fast-growing list of journalists killed in action, or the much longer list of those killed in recent years by troops defending entrenched, unjust power in Latin America.
Still, those of us who knew Brad know that his work would never have been completed. From the community gardens of the Lower East Side to the Movimento Sem Terra encampments of Brazil, he would have continued to travel to where the people who make this world a beautiful place are resisting those who would cause it further death and destruction. Now, in his memory, we will all travel those roads. We are the network, all of us who speak and listen, all of us who resist.
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