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Brad Will, New York Documentary Filmmaker and Indymedia Reporter, Assassinated

Saturday 28 October 2006

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Brad Will, New York Documentary Filmmaker and Indymedia Reporter, Assassinated by Pro-Government Gunshot in Oaxaca While Reporting the Story

Photographer Oswaldo Ramirez of the Daily Milenio Wounded in Attack by Shooters for Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in Santa Lucia El Camino

By Al Giordano

The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Chihuahua

Brad Will, 36, a documentary filmmaker and reporter for Indymedia in New York, Bolivia and Brazil, died today of a gunshot to the chest when pro-government attackers opened fire on a barricade in the neighborhood of Santa Lucia El Camino, on the outskirts of Oaxaca, Mexico. He died with his video camera in his hands.

Brad went to Oaxaca in early October to document the story that Commercial Media simulators like Rebecca Romero of Associated Press distort instead of report: the story of a people sick and tired of repression and injustice, who take back the government that rightfully is theirs. In that context, his assassination is also a consequence of what happens when independent media must do the work that Big Media fails to do: to tell the truth. My friend and colleague since 1996 when we labored together at 88.7 FM Steal This Radio on New York’s Lower East Side, I bumped into him again in Bolivia in 2004 during a public reception held by the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, and again on the Yucatán peninsula last January where he came to cover the beginnings of the Zapatista Other Campaign - Brad died to bring the authentic story to the world.

Brad went to Oaxaca in early October knowing, assuming and sharing the risks of reporting the story. His final published article, on October 17, titled “Death in Oaxaca,” reported the assassination of Alejandro García Hernández on the barricades set up by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in its Spanish initials). Brad wrote:

“...went walking back from alejandros barricade with a group of supporters who came from an outlying district a half hour away-went walking with angry folk on their way to the morgue-went inside and saw him-havent seen too many bodies in my life-eats you up-a stack of nameless corpes in the corner-about the number who had died-no refrigeration-the smell-they had to open his skull to pull the bullet out-walked back with him and his people

“...and now alejandro waits in the zocalo-like the others at their plantones-hes waiting for an impasse, a change, an exit, a way forward, a way out, a solution-waiting for the earth to shift and open-waiting for november when he can sit with his loved ones on the day of the dead and share food and drink and a song-waiting for the plaza to turn itself over to him and burst-he will only wait until morning but tonight he is waiting for the governor and his lot to never come back-one more death-one more martyr in a dirty war-one more time to cry and hurt-one more time to know power and its ugly head-one more bullet cracks the night-one more night at the barricades-some keep the fires-others curl up and sleep-but all of them are with him as he rests one last night at his watch...”

Last September 26, Brad, on his way to Mexico, wrote me:

“hey al
it brad from nyc-it would be great to get yr narco contacts in oaxaca-i am headed there and want to connect with as many folks as posible-are you in df?-i should be stopping though there and it would be great to go out for a drink solid

Knowing of Brad’s hard luck covering other stories (he had been beaten by police in New York and in Brazil doing this important but dangerous work), his difficulty with the Spanish language, and of the greater risk for independent reporters who haven’t been embedded over time (and thus known by the people) in Oaxaca, I pleaded with him not to go, to instead go to Atenco and report on the story there of the arrival of Zapatista comandantes:

“Our Oaxaca team is firmly embedded. There are a chingo of other internacionales roaming around there looking for the big story, but the situation is very delicate, the APPO doesn’t trust anyone it hasn’t known for years, and they keep telling me not to send newcomers, because the situation is so fucking tense... If you are coming to Mexico, I would much more recommend your hanging around DF-Atenco and reporting that story which is about to begin. The APPO is (understandably) very distrustful of people it doesn’t already know. And we have enough hands on deck there to continue breaking the story. But what is about to happen in Atenco-DF needs more hands on deck.”

Brad replied that same night, undeterred:

thanks for the quick get back-i have a hd professional camera-i have heard reports about the level of distrust in oax and it is disconcerting-i think i will still go-i wont tell them you sent me and i am open to other suggestions on how to spend my time-i dont know what is happening in atenco in the coming days-i may connect with la otra capitulo dos somewhere along the way-great to hear from you-do you have a cell / phone number?
b rad”

I was not surprised that he decided to go to Oaxaca anyway. Brad had always taken risks: whether riding freight train box cars across the North American plain, or bunkering in his Fifth Street squat in 1996 when police and the wrecking ball invaded, his life had been one of courage. I gave him my cell phone number in case of emergency. He wrote back on October 7, three weeks ago:

“hey al
brad here-thanks for the contacts and info-i landed in df feeling
pretty ill and then came straight to oax and am plugged in-if you want to share your contacts down here it would be very helpful-i think I will stay down here for a month-nancy said you had a contact with a human rights lawyer who might help journalists not get deported - please help me with that information as well-i know you are busy and look forward to seeing more of your work

In those emails are the words of a valiant compañero who, knowing full well that this story could be his last, decided to share the risks with the people whose cause he reported.

Also sharing the risks today in Santa Lucia El Camino, Oaxaca was photographer Oswaldo Ramírez of the daily Milenio, wounded by gunfire. It was Milenio reporter Diego Osorio who confirmed the news of Brad’s death at 4:30 this afternoon. He also said that in another corner of the city, outside the state prosecutor’s office, gunmen fired at other APPO members, that three were wounded, and that one schoolteacher is reported dead, but was unable so far to confirm that report.

Brad Will was known and liked throughout the hemisphere, and in its media centers from New York to Sao Paulo to Mexico City. Tonight his body lies in the same Oaxaca morgue he visited and wrote about last week. He will not go silently into the long night of repression that the illegitimate governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, President Vicente Fox and his illegitimate successor Felipe Calderon have created in Oaxaca, and, indeed, in so much of Mexico. It was inevitable that soon an international reporter would join the growing list of the assassinated under the repressive regimes of Mexico (others had already been raped and beaten in Atenco, only to be deported from the country last May). Tonight it was Brad, doing the responsible and urgent work, video camera in hand, of breaking the Commercial Media blockade.

Speaking at a public meeting of the Other Campaign in Buaiscobe, Sonora, when the news came in about Brad’s death, Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, upon receiving a briefing of the day’s events in Oaxaca, told the public and the press:

“We know that they killed at least one person. This person that they killed was from the alternative media that are here with us. He didn’t work for the big television news companies and didn’t receive pay. He is like the people who came here with us on the bus, who are carrying the voices of the people from below so that they would be known. Because we already know that the television news companies and newspapers only concern themselves with governmental affairs. And this person was a compañero of the Other Campaign. He also traveled various parts of the country with us, and he was with us when we were in Yucatán, taking photos and video of what was happening there. And they shot him and he died. It appears that there is another person dead. The government doesn’t want to take responsibility for what happened. Now they tell us that all of the people of Oaxaca are mobilizing. They aren’t afraid. They are mobilizing to take to the streets and protest this injustice. We are issuing a call to all of the Other Campaign at the national level and to compañeros and compañeras in other countries to unite and to demand justice for this dead compañero. We are making this call especially to all of the alternative media, and free media here in Mexico and in all the world.”

Tonight, from the Oaxaca City Morgue, Brad Will shouts “Ya Basta!” - Enough Already! - to the death and suffering imposed (as Brad, a thoughtful and serious anarchist, understood) by an economic system, the capitalist system. His death will be avenged when that system is destroyed. And Brad Will’s ultimate sacrifice exposes the Mexican regime for the brutal authoritarian violence that the Commercial Media hides from the world, and thus speeds the day that justice will come from below and sweep out the regimes of pain and repression that system requires. Brad gave his life tonight so that you and I could know the truth. We owe him to act upon it, and to share the risks that he took. Goodbye, old friend. Your sacrifice will not be in vain.

Update, 10:30 p.m. Oaxaca: The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) has confirmed that schoolteacher Emilio Alfonso Fabián has died from three bullet wounds after an attack by shooters for Ulises Ruiz Ortiz outside the state government palace.

Kristin Bricker reported for this story from Sonora

Forum posts

  • Sorry you lost a friend.

    Sorry he didn’t know how to dodge the bullet everyone warns you about.

    Sorry he was shot.

    But more than that, I wonder if he actually knew he’d die there, and if that’s why he went anyway.

    Courage dies within courageous acts.

    No one should get shot, but we do.

    Laws shouldn’t cross want, but they do.

    Oaxaca shouldn’t be in revolt, but it is.

    And one last thing, I hope he died as high as a kite.