a new memorial for Brad Will in Oaxaca city (photo: Katie Orlinsky)
With the one year anniversary of his murder here, Brad Will is back in the media... mostly thanks to the efforts of John Ross. His parents and other family members, and some of his close friends, are the ones not letting the case rest, though. On Saturday I attended a memorial for Brad organized by them at St. Mark's Church in Manhattan's East Village. The request was that I speak to the context in Oaxaca surrounding Brad's death. After hearing how hard his parents and others are struggling to bring some sort of justice to Brad's case, I took it a bit further than that...
Brad Will in Context
on the one year anniversary of his murder in oaxaca
Delivered at his memorial on October 27, 2007
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
Hi everyone. I'm RJ Maccani and I was asked to come and share a bit of the context in Oaxaca surrounding the murder of Brad Will. I'm very grateful that I've been invited to speak to all of you today, so many of Brad's family members and close friends. I'm going to put Brad Will not only within the context of what was going on in Oaxaca at the time of his murder, but also within a longer context of what is going on on this continent, and connect it back to New York City as well.
I knew Brad for several years. While I was in Oaxaca at the beginning of 2006 reporting for Narco News on the Other Campaign, I was reading dispatches from Brad who was in the Yucatán Peninsula reporting on... the Other Campaign. The Other Campaign is a new national movement to transform Mexico "from below and to the left," meaning a movement where the poor and working people of Mexico reclaim their right to live and to control their lives, to govern themselves without the deeply corrupted political class. This was an aspiration that Brad, living as he did in the USA, could relate to.
Indeed, it was presidential election time in Mexico when Brad arrived at the beginning of 2006 and the most popular candidate - the one who was expected to win and, so it seems, did win the most votes - was a guy named Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a candidate who said he was on the left and would solve the problems of the poor. This supposed "candidate of the left", Obrador, was the Mayor of Mexico City and during his tenure contracted the active support of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - a leftist if there ever was one - to help him manage the city. Brad Will had spent many years defending squats, community gardens, and Reclaiming the Streets during that brutal period of "Giuliani Time" here in NYC. Brad came to Mexico to cover the Other Campaign, a movement that was against this friend of Giuliani and for direct, participatory democracy.
So it's no surprise that when the annual teacher's strike in Oaxaca exploded into a months-long experience of self-rule in June of that same year, Brad would again take notice. One of the reasons Brad said he wanted to go to Oaxaca was because he wanted "to be part of a revolution." In these times, that is quite understandable and commendable.
I want to place Brad in a much deeper context. Brad Will is part of a legacy that goes back over 500 years on these lands. Brad was inspired to go to Oaxaca by the authentic democracy he witnessed being practiced by the original inhabitants of those lands. You don't hear much about it, but the pilgrims and puritans were also running off in droves to join the "Indians." The Boston Tea Party and the US Constitution were inspired by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. You don't hear about that much and it's not really taught in schools yet, but it's that same story that Brad traveled to Oaxaca to tell.
So what was the context in Oaxaca when Brad arrived there? As I mentioned earlier, Oaxaca City and many other parts of the state were under direct control of the people. Police had been kicked out of the city for months and crime had gone down. The many different peoples who make up Oaxaca had already had alot of practice, or at least the memory, of running things themselves. Hundreds of municipalities still elect their representatives and run their lands through popular assembly. In June of 2006 they were rising up against decades of despotic, one party rule that was pushing them off of their land and into sweatshops. This uprising against tyranny and this example of a more authentic democracy is the story Brad went to Oaxaca to tell.
Arriving in Oaxaca City in October of last year was to enter a tinderbox. Paramilitary attacks were being undertaken against the movement throughout the city. Brad took up with members of the "Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca - Ricardo Flores Magón", or "CIPO," in their neighborhood of Santa Lucia del Camino. This was a tough thing to do. Anyone who had spent any time with the social movements in Oaxaca City - before or after the uprising - could tell you that Santa Lucia del Camino was also crawling with paramilitaries.
Rather than crawl under their beds and hide, the people of Oaxaca City - including the residents of Santa Lucia del Camino - went out in their streets and set up blockades to directly stop the paramilitaries who were roaming their streets, kidnapping and killing their family and friends. It was at a barricade in Santa Lucia del Camino where Bradley Roland Will, working as an Indymedia journalist, was shot and killed.
As has already been mentioned, the three most likely suspects in Brad's murder, the ones who were photographed firing guns on the barricade: Police Officer Juan Carlos Soriano, City Personnel Director Manuel Aguilar, and Public Safety Chief Avel Santiago Zárate, are still free, never even having been interrogated.
These men were arrested, never interrogated, and let go
photograph published in El Universal
photograph published in El Universal
Why is everyone in power doing everything they can to avoid addressing the October 27, 2006 murder of Brad Will? The murders of Emilio Alfonso Fabián and Eudocia Olivera Díaz that same day? All the murders and disappearances in Oaxaca? Well, I think you can answer that question yourselves.
So what now? As I'm sure all of us here know, Brad loved Halloween. So it's only fitting that we remember Brad, and honor his memory, as this time of the year rolls around. As you also know, it will soon be Mexico's Day of the Dead as well... and you can be sure that the name Bradley Roland Will will be among those honored throughout Mexico this year, just as it was last year. So in honoring Brad, let us also honor all who have fallen and all who live and continue to carry on the long journey towards freedom.
It has been a year since Brad was murdered. The struggle continues in Oaxaca. I sincerely hope that you will all come back here to St. Mark's Church on Thursday to see the New York City premier of Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad - "A Little Bit of So Much Truth" - the best film yet on the recent happenings in Oaxaca... and Brad is of course a part of the story told. And what a better way to learn more about the context in Oaxaca during Brad's time there than to see a film that not only documents the same struggle against tyranny and for authentic democracy that Brad went to Oaxaca to cover, but that does it through the lens of the alternative medias employed by that same struggle?
And the Other Campaign that Brad covered eight months prior to coming to Oaxaca also continues throughout Mexico and here in the USA as well: from Movement for Justice in El Barrio's struggle against gentrification in East Harlem to this month's Gathering of Indigenous Peoples of América. And the powerful are continuing their plans as well: the Security and Prosperity Partnership - think NAFTA combined with the War on Terror - and Plan Mexico [Mérida Initative]. So not only is Mexico suffering under the dumping of subsidized US corn through NAFTA, which undermines local producers and forces them into multinational sweatshops, but now they could be faced with a hyper-militarized War on Drugs program that will, just as in Colombia, only strengthen the narco-traffickers hold on power.
So let's respond to the cynical and brutal plans of those in power with some plans of our own. What about a "Plan Turtle Island?"
Let us honor Brad Will by joining in that long tradition here of which he was a part. Let's join with the original inhabitants of these lands, and with everyone else in struggle, to fight together for authentic freedom.
That's all. Thank you.