|English | Español||July 21, 2017 | Issue #43|
¡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
Photos: D.R. 2006 Joan Moossy and Paul DiRienzo
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.
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 one confirmed death 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:
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.
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 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.
At the end of accounts, 12 people were arrested at today’s action including one accredited journalist who had her camera confiscated. At least three 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.
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 activism, 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!
For updates on Oaxaca solidarity actions in NYC, check out RJ’s blog at http://zapagringo.com
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism