NYC Indymedia reporter killed in Oaxaca; Fox sends in federal police

Brad Will (Bradley Roland Will), 36, a photojournalist for New York City’s Independent Media Center (IMC) was fatally shot Oct. 27 when gunmen opened fire on a protest barricade in the besieged capital of Oaxaca state in southern Mexico.

According to a Los Angeles Times account, in the late afternoon, a university radio station controlled by the protesters reported that shots were being fired at a barricade blocking the entrance to the city on Avenida Ferrocarril. Will headed toward the barricade to get video footage. As Will approached the barricade, he was hit in the abdomen by gunfire, and was dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Protest leader Flavio Sosa said a group of some 30 government operatives armed with high-caliber weapons attacked the barricade. State government officials denied any involvement in the shooting. (LAT, Oct. 28)

An account in the Mexican daily El Universal said the incident took place in the municipality of Santa Lucia del Camino, about 10 miles outside Oaxaca City. None of the assailants have been identified or arrested, but the federal Attorney General’s Office said its special division in charge of crimes against journalists will investigate.

Representatives of the Popular People’s Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) blamed the state’s Gov. Ulises Ruiz for the violence, calling the shootings the latest acts of repression carried out by his clandestine operatives. At least 10 APPO members have been killed since June, with no suspects arrested. “Now they’re going after our barricades,” said APPO spokesperson Antonio Garcia Sanchez.

APPO has demanded Ruiz’s ouster since June 14, when the governor used state troops to try to break a teachers strike. APPO called a “maximum alert” on the morning of the latest shootings after a declaration by spokesman Florentino Lopez that one of the organization’s members had been kidnapped by gunmen in the Puente de Cinco Senores district of the city.

Another APPO spokesperson said Oct. 27 that the body of a teacher had been found about a mile outside Oaxaca City on the highway to Tehuantepec.

In Mexico City, several hundred Oaxacan protesters marched that evening from the APPO encampment near the Senate building to stage a demonstration outside the Government Secretariat. The demonstrators shouted “Ulises, assassin,” and toppled a metal fence meant to keep them away from the building. A phalanx of riot police barred them from proceeding to the building.

Inside, Government Secretary Carlos Abascal met with teachers union leader Enrique Rueda to discuss the conditions for a return to work by Oaxaca’s striking teachers. Rueda, secretary general of Oaxaca’s local Section 22 of the national teachers’ union, said the state’s teachers would continue their talks over the weekend.

Friday Oct. 27 had promised to be a day of tension in Oaxaca City, with APPO calling for a boycott of businesses and the erecting of new barricades if Ruiz had not resigned by then. The boycott was enforced by APPO militants at downtown businesses, with the entrances to chain restaurants blocked and in some cases customers forceibly evacuated. Later in the day, APPO protesters armed themselves with rocks, sticks, machetes, homemade rockets and Molotov cocktails in response to the shootings. (El Universal, Oct. 28)

Despite reports in the national and especially US press that the teachers’ strike might be drawing to a close, the local Noticias de Oaxaca reported Oct. 27 that after a seven-hour discussion, the State Teachers’ Assembly (Asamblea Estatal del Magisterio), meeting without the presence of official union leader Rueda, agreed that they would return to work only when the government meets their demands. (Noticias de Oaxaca, Oct. 27)

Oaxaca Attorney General Lizbeth Cana blamed the violence on the APPO, which she has compared to an urban guerrilla group. She said the armed men were angry residents defending themselves. “The people are fed up with permanent violence, threats and kidnappings,” Cana said.

But even US Ambassador Tony Garza said the armed group may have been police. “It appears that Mr. Will was killed during a shoot-out between what may have been local police,” and protesters, Garza said in a written statement.

Esteban Zurrita, a resident of Oaxaca, was also shot dead in the incident. The third victim was identified as Emilio Alonso Fabian, whose bullet-ridden body was found about two miles from the barricade. Oswaldo Ramirez, a photographer for the Mexico City daily newspaper Milenio was shot in the foot and hospitalized.

Gunfire also erupted that day outside the state prosecutors office, leaving three people injured. The Associated Press account persisted in using the terms “clash” and “shoot-out” despite little evidence that gunfire came from the protesters. (AP, Oct. 28)

By the evening of the 27th, protesters reached by phone by the Houston Chronicle said they were holed up in government offices they had seized weeks ago, with police and pro-government gunmen gathering outside. “We are under siege,” said protester Gustavo Lopez. He said a teacher had been fatally shot in the building and three others were wounded. Mexican media identified the slain teacher as Emilio Alonso.

Will carried credentials identifying him as a photographer for Indymedia, witnesses said. APPO representatives denied any gunfire had come from their side. “They were the governor’s pistoleros,” protester Flavio Sosa told Monitor radio network following the shootings. “Our fight is peaceful.” (Houston Chronicle, Oct. 28)

The new violence comes as President Vicente Fox announced that an “extraordinary” program for the “total recuperation” of Oaxaca will be implemented. (El Universal, Oct. 27)

All above sources archived at Chiapas95

On Oct. 28, the federal Government Secretariat issued a statement demanding protesters “immediately hand over streets, plazas, public buildings and private property” so that federal authorities can “guarantee public order and adherence to the law, as well as preserve respect for the population’s individual guarantees.”

A detachment of Federal Preventative Police are said to be converging on Oaxaca City. AP reports “police in gray uniforms and carrying riot shields poured off of transport planes at Oaxaca’s airport, which was closed to commercial traffic.” An APPO spokesperson estimated the detachment at 4,000 federal police. (AP, Oct. 28)

A statement from the New York IMC put the fatal incident at the municipality of Calicate, on the outskirts of Oaxaca City. It raised fears of an imminent widespread crackdown, saying: “Radio APPO [is] reporting truckloads of armed paramilitaries entering the city. There are also calling for people to reinforce the thousands of barricades that have been constructed for months as part of the statewide teacher strike and popular uprising that has demanded the removal of PRI governor ulisis [sic] Ortiz Ruiz.” (NYC Indymedia, Oct. 27)

See also NY IMC’s Brad Will memoral page. More information and images are available at the Mexico City Centro de Medios Libres.

UPDATE & QUESTIONS, added Nov. 10:

A slideshow of the fatal incident in Santa Lucia del Camino online at El Universal indicates APPO militants did return fire.

Fotos and text of an Oct. 28 Cronica de Hoy report on an APPO attack on the local state police headquarters in Santa María Coyotepec, another Oaxaca City suburb, the day after Brad Will’s death also indicate use of small arms by APPO militants. The police station was apparently both fired on with pistols and set aflame with Molotov cocktails.

It also appears that Esteban Zurita López, one of the three killed on the 27th, was actually shot in Santa María Coyotepec, not with Brad Will in Santa Lucia del Camino. An Oct. 29 account in El Universal states that his widow and other surviving kin are denying that he was an APPO member, and in fact claim that he was killed by APPO.

Anonymous sources interviewed by journalist Sarah Ferguson for a feature on Brad Will’s slaying for the Nov. 15 Village Voice indicated that Zurita’s family was intimidated into this claim by threats of violence. (The quote was not actually used in the story, but WW4 REPORT’s Bill Weinberg helped conduct the interview by telephone to Oaxaca.)

See our last post on Mexico and the struggle in Oaxaca.

  1. Brad presente
    Just in case you haven’t seen all of this (though I figure you probably already have. eg Journal article.)


    From: “Marina Sitrin”
    Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2006 23:20:05 -0400
    Subject: friend and companero brad was killed

    Our friend, brother, and companero, Brad Will was killed today by paramilitaries in Oxaca Mexico.

    Brad has been an inspiring and passionate militant, joining struggles all over the world, from land occupations in the Pacific North West of the US, to direct actions against global capital, to rebellions in Argentina, land occupations in Brazil, and anti-privatization struggles in Bolivia. Brad was always a part of whatever he was in. He was always with people, not organizing them. He taught me, and so many others so much through example. He will be missed in so many ways.

    Brad was a part of our communities. We should remember him with the love and affection that he showed, and we feel. We should also carry on with direct action to stop those that are trying to stop social creation, in the US, Mexico, Argentina, and the globe.

    brad Presente!
    brad presente!
    brad Presente!

    Brad’s last email dispatch …

    early dawn, oct16
    yesterday i went for a walk with the good people of oaxaca — was walking
    all day really — in the afternoon they showed me where the bullets hit the
    wall — they numbered the ones they could reach — it reminded me of the
    doorway of amadou diallos home — but here the grafitti was there before the
    shooting began — one bullet they didnt number was still in his head — he
    was 41 years old — alejandro garcia hernandez — at the neighborhood
    barricade every night — that night he came out to join his wife and sons to
    let an ambulance through — then a pickup tried to follow — he took their
    bullet when he told them they could not pass — they never did — these
    military men in civilian dress shot their way out of there

    a young man who wanted to only be called marco was with them when the
    shooting happened — a bullet passed through his shoulder — he was clearly
    in shock when we met — 19 years old — said he hadnt told his parents yet
    — said he had been at the barricade every night — said he was going back
    as soon as the wound closed — absolutely

    just days before there was a delegation of senators visiting to determine
    the ungovernability of the state — they got a taste — the call went out to
    shut down the rest of the government — dozens went walking out of the
    zocalo city center with big sticks and a box full of spray paint — they
    took control of 3 city buses and went around the city all morning visiting
    local government buildings and informing them that that they were closed —
    and we appreciate your voluntary cooperation — and they filed out preturbed
    but still getting paid — shut — as they pulled away from the last stop 3
    gunmen came out and started shooting — 2 buses had already pulled away —
    mayhem — 10 minute battle with stones and slingshots and screaming — one
    headwound — another through the leg — made their way to the hospital while
    the fighting continued — shout out on the radio and people came from all
    parts — the gunmen were around the side of the building — they got away —
    they were inside — no one sure — watchful — undercover police were
    reported lurking around the hospital and folks went running to stand watch
    over the wounded

    what can you say about this movement — this revolutionary moment — you
    know it is building, growing, shaping — you can feel it — trying
    desperately for a direct democracy — in november appo will have a state
    wide conference for the formation of a state wide assemblea estatal del
    pueblo de oaxaca (aepo) — now there are 11 of 33 states in mexico that have
    declared formation of assemblea populares like appo — and on la otra lado
    in the usa a few — the marines have returned to sea even though the federal
    police who ravaged atenco remain close by — the new encampment in mexico
    has begun a hunger strike — the senate can expell URO — whats next
    nobodies sure — it is a point of light pressed through glass — ready to
    burn or show the way — it is clear that this is more than a strike, more
    than expulsion of a governor, more than a blockade, more than a coalition of
    fragments — it is a genuine peoples revolt — and after decades of pri rule
    by bribe, fraud, and bullet the people are tired — they call him the tyrant
    — they talk of destroying this authoritarianism — you cannot mistake the
    whisper of the lancandon jungle in the streets — in every street corner
    deciding together to hold — you see it their faces — indigenous, women,
    children — so brave — watchful at night — proud and resolute

    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

    uro= Ulises Ruiz Ortiz “governor” of the state of oaxaca
    planton= sit in, vigil, encampment
    zocalo= central plaza

    more info:

    ‘In sum, we are an army of dreamers, and therefore invincible. How can we
    fail to win, with this imagination overturning everything. Or rather, we do
    not deserve to lose.’
    – Subcomandante Marcos
    Seamos realistas, hagamos lo imposible ~ che


    Subject: [RTSNYC] Re: [dan] brad will

    Oy ve…

    Well, none of us will ever know when we are to come or go
    in this world.

    I loved knowing Brad. I loved him volunteering to run the
    tripod crew for the RTS Buy NOthing Day action in 1999.
    I loved sharing beers with him. I loved reading his dispatches.
    I loved spending time in jail with him (even when he did
    hog the bench. I loved hearing about his travels to Prague,
    Mexico, and through the hot spots of the global justice movement’s
    ups and downs. I loved seeing him at the fire at Esperanza. I
    loved seeing him on his bike at the Diallo protests. I loved
    seeing Brad at Gardenning events. I loved reading his dispatches
    from the emcampments in Brazil, the WTO actions in Prague, or
    Seattle. And I loved running into him in the streets.
    And I loved seeing him
    for his birthday bash this summer and seeing him enjoying
    his life.

    I loved knowing him. I didn’t love him
    not returning my calls or frequent requests for interviews.
    I think I have interviewed half the people on this list.
    But Brad wouldn’t let me interview him. WHen I got the call
    from William Etundi, ‘Ben, i have some bad news about Brad’
    I knew exactly what had happened. He was always close.
    Thats what made him an amazing activist. He lived on
    the cusp of history. He lived a historical life. And to be part
    of that history, he would take any risk. But he was not reckless.
    He was a caring, fun guy, who like most of us, was in it
    for the communtiy, the history, and hopefully to get a little
    somethin’ somethin’. And yet, while many such as myself,
    took a more comfortable route, he put himself at risk over
    and over and over. I know he was profoundly disturbed
    to see a woman burnt to death at a homeless encampment
    two years ago in Brazil. He lived history. Now he is part of
    it. For some reason, I will miss seeing him. But I also
    know he lived the richest of lives, something most of us
    could only aspire to.
    >>A shootout has occurred in the municipality of
    >>Calicate, in Oaxaca City, Mexico today, leaving New
    >>York City Indymedia journalist Bradley Will dead after
    >>being shot in the chest. He died before reaching the
    >>hospital, according to La Jornada. A photographer from
    >>the newspaper millenio diario, who was at Wills side,
    >>was shot in the foot and reported injured, his status
    >>Radio APPO, the radio of the Assembly Popular of the
    >>Oaxacan People,
    >>are reporting truckloads of armed paramilitaries
    >>entering the city.
    >>There are also calling for people to reinforce the
    >>thousands of barricades that have been constructed for
    >>months as part of the statewide teacher strike and
    >>popular uprising that has demanded the removal of PRI
    >>governor ulisis Ortiz Ruiz.