¡Presente! Brad Will’s Ghost at the NYC Mexican Consulate
Protesters, Friends and Others Honor Brad's Life and Struggle by Bringing “One More Night At the Barricades” to the Streets of New York City
By RJ Maccani
(originally published on The Narco News Bulletin)
Brad’s smile beamed over the hundreds of people who had gathered at the Mexican consulate this morning to protest the murder of their friend on Friday. Brad Will was reporting for NYC Indymedia when a police chief and several government officials shot and killed him at a barricade in Oaxaca City—he was one of three killed that day. The call went out straight from the people of Oaxaca: “Bring the barricades to every Mexican embassy and consulate in the world!”
And that’s just what Brad Will’s friends did. You see, Brad’s been around for a while, and his friends aren’t only his colleagues at Indymedia, but also the Lower East Side squatters, radical environmentalists, “Reclaim the Streets” activists and many others with whom he worked for over a decade. Basically, they picked the wrong journalist to fuck with.
Word of Brad’s death got to his friends in New York City quickly. It was Halloween weekend and just hours after his murder, people began pouring into Bluestockings, a radical bookstore and activism center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to mourn…and to plan. On Saturday night they held a candlelight vigil outside of the Mexican consulate. They returned to the consulate this morning, not with candles this time, but with the barricades.
From Grief To Anger
Grief turned into anger over the weekend as Brad’s mourners realized that the Mexican government was using Brad’s death to justify sending federal forces into Oaxaca to quell the uprising that has been going on there for five months; the same uprising that Brad was standing with when killed by government forces.
Here in the US, the commercial media claimed Brad as one of their own and repeated the lie that he was killed in “cross-fire” between pro and anti-government forces. The government killed Brad – the killers were photographed as they did it – and since then they’ve been identified. All of this is easily available on-line and it doesn’t take an investigative journalist to figure that out, but apparently it takes an authentic one to report it.
In an echo of the government’s attack on Atenco in early May, federal police descended upon Oaxaca City yesterday, leading to at least two confirmed deaths and over fifty arrests of civilians and movement activists, while the local government and paramilitary forces who have been murdering members of this nonviolent movement remain free. This was too much for us to bear.
Determined not to let Brad’s death become just a personal interest story for the US media, and a cover for more repression against the people of Oaxaca, we came to the consulate this morning with four demands:
1. All armed forces acting on behalf of the government against the people of Oaxaca be removed immediately;
2. The illegitimate governor Ruiz be removed immediately;
3. The federal government negotiate directly with those people who man the barricades in Oaxaca;
4. Guilty parties on all levels be identified and held accountable for the assassinations of Brad Will and the other civilian victims in Oaxaca.
We began assembling at around 9 am and within half-an-hour the crowd in front of the consulate had swelled to well over 200. Through skillful on-site negotiation with the police we managed to stay on the sidewalk and take over a lane of traffic without the NYPD caging us in with metal barricades… the barricades came later. For now, the mood vacillated between solemn and cheerful. Two large banners, one featuring the four demands and the other a blown-up photo of Brad playing with a child, were held along both sides of the entrance to the consulate and served as altars for the many flowers, candles, and mementos that people brought with them. A “ghost bike” was built for Brad and chained up to the entrance’s fence.
It started with an old friend of Brad’s, Tim Doody, climbing the lamppost in front of the consulate to station himself there, supporting a giant painting of Brad smiling with the words “One more night at the barricades” written beneath his portrait. A perennial face at actions in the city, Brad’s friends made sure that they would be able to see him on the front lines one more time. Doody was even wearing Brad’s old climbing harness.
A crowd surrounded the lamppost as Doody began to climb, thus ensuring that the police would not be able to take him down. Meanwhile, another activist, Tim Keating, locked himself down to the main gated-entrance of the consulate while two more blockaded a secondary entrance. Now things began to get nasty.
The main entrance to the Mexican consulate in NYC has something like an outdoor foyer. There is a big gate with a single entrance and then a large space the length of the consulate, about ten feet deep, before you get to the actual door of the building. In this outdoor space you will usually find people milling around, consulate workers on smoke breaks and others waiting for services. Protest organizers were afraid that their actions would bring repression down upon Mexican immigrants who had not come to the consulate to protest. This nearly happened.
As soon as they realized that he was locking himself to the gate, the police rushed Keating and the other protestors who were accompanying him. Caught in this scuffle was a family waiting in the outdoor foyer. As the police rushed the protestors, an organizer of the protest who was near the family shouted to them, “Are you OK? We’re gonna do our best to make sure you don’t get hurt!” The mother shouted back, “I’m great!” Even though the gate that Keating chained himself to ended up breaking during the scuffle, he managed to prop it up sideways across the entrance and hold his position. The action not only succeeded in shutting down the consulate in solidarity with the movement in Oaxaca, but also gave a bit of cheer to many who hate the way they are treated when they come to the consulate for services.
So there we were, an unruly crowd swelling to three or four hundred people: anarchists and socialists, Mexican activists, radical teachers, pedestrians and, mostly, friends of Brad Will. The banner hang and lock downs were in effect and now people began lying in front of vehicles in the street. The entire block, and the consulate itself, were shut down. As the police came in with wooden barricades to trap us on the sidewalks, people began pouring out into the streets dragging the barricades with them. With chants of “Oaxaca Vive! La Lucha Sigue!” and Brad’s smiling portrait hanging over the crowd, it was indeed “another night” on Oaxaca’s barricades—brought now against Mexican embassies and consulates across the world.
It wasn’t until around 10:30, almost 45 minutes later, that the police finally succeeded in unblocking the consulate entrances and bringing Doody down from the lamppost. But various conflicts in the street led to more arrests. It wasn’t until after 11 that they finally got traffic moving again and then the protest still continued along the sidewalks.
The action attracted a large commercial media presence, especially amongst the Spanish-language press. Those interviewed stressed the four demands mentioned above and that we are angry about all the murders of organizers and civilians in Oaxaca and especially troubled by the Mexican government’s use (with the help of US and Mexican commercial media) of Brad’s death to justify Sunday’s invasion of Oaxaca by federal police.
La Lucha Sigue
At the end of accounts, 12 people were arrested at today’s action including one accredited journalist who had her camera confiscated. At least two people have been killed in Oaxaca in the past two days and at least fifty have been arrested, even as the people of Oaxaca continue to hold the city center and control various radio stations (the movement’s main form of communication). Spirits are still high in Oaxaca just as they are here in NYC while people continue to support their jailed compañeros.
Word has just come from the Zapatistas that they will begin road blockades in their territories and are calling on all adherents to the Other Campaign to join them throughout Mexico and “on the other side” this Wednesday. They are also calling for a nationwide General Strike in solidarity with Oaxaca on November 20. International adherents to the Sixth Declaration are called upon to join in solidarity actions on both of these days. Brad’s friends and other NYC organizers are considering this call as they continue to plan this week of action, and to continue on in the future.
This consideration is appropriate as Brad was an international adherent to the Sixth Declaration himself and was part of the alternative media within the caravan that followed Delegate Zero on the first leg of his tour through Southern Mexico. I can still remember Brad’s poetic dispatches as he covered Marcos’ meetings in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo. Chillingly, he is the second member of this caravan to be murdered by the Mexican government—the first was Alexis Benhumea who died of injuries he sustained during the early May assault on Atenco.
This morning’s actions were part memorial and part direct action, an effective and cathartic experience for all of us who knew Brad and could still, out of the corner of our eyes, see his cheshire grin beaming alongside us today. The organizers of today’s protest have committed to continue shifting the focus of their actions to all of the dead and disappeared of Oaxaca, as well as to the Oaxacan peoples’ ongoing struggle to depose their corrupt governor, Ulises Ruiz. After all, that is the story that Brad put his life on the line so he could report it to us all. If the actions here in NYC continue to be as ingenious, loving, and yes, messy, as the one today, then perhaps we will give Brad reason to continue walking with us, as he most certainly was today…
¡Oaxaca Vive! ¡La Lucha Sigue!
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
¡Presente! Brad Will’s Ghost at the NYC Mexican Consulate