how many more martyrs til justice is served?
October 27th, 2006 – another friend, another witness to injustice, becoming another victim to the violence. when will it end? and how many friends must i lose?
i sit in palestine, where my tears for my friend brad join a river of tears for the thousands of victims of violence here in this supposedly holy land. i am across the world from mexico, but my memories of oaxaca stand out strongly as i think of brad with his camera, the only ‘weapon’ he ever carried, standing there casual and relaxed, as always, prepared to face those who would kill him with a smile and a shrug, prepared to take on powerful empires armed only with his camera and his songs.
but the camera and the songs weren’t enough to keep you safe this time, my friend…….the camera couldn’t protect you from the forces wishing to restore their version of “order” upon the oppressed people of oaxaca……just as rachel corrie’s american passport couldn’t protect her from the israeli armored bulldozer and the forces behind it – forces prepared to rob the palestinians of their land at any cost…
i haven’t seen brad since i was last in new york…..at a protest, of course. he was at every protest, big or small, he _had_ to be there. it wouldn’t be a protest without him. when i met him we were part of a small group that determined to make new york indymedia a reality. we lived, breathed, sweated and slept indymedia. every second of our time was devoted to it….day and night, recording everything we could…brad….john tarleton, warcry, justin, madhava, ana, josh breitbart, arun, lee, madhava….devoting ourselves with such fury to the idea that ‘all voices should be heard’. and brad was just about the most devoted devotee to that idea, that vision.
i hear his voice now, in my head, so matter-of-fact, so ready to face any force…but not to be a hero! no! just because (hear brad’s voice now), well hey, there are people being oppressed, so _of Course_ we’re gonna stand up and be there with them. of Course we’re gonna tell their story, capture their struggle on our cameras, broadcast their voices to the world. i mean, that’s what any reasonable person would do in such a circumstance.
and of course, he made sense…..it is reasonable, it is in fact the only logical and human way to respond to the forces of oppression. so why does he have to die a hero? why? why another martyr? is this what it will take to bring justice? more dead bodies?
in the american south there were 41 martyrs of the non-violent struggle for civil rights. if there had been a violent revolution, said one aging civil rights activist to me last year, there would have been many more deaths. 750,000 died in the civil war to end slavery….had there been another civil war, there would have been even more than that.
so now, in the movement for global justice, against corporate globalization, against colonialism….now we have our martyrs…..carlo giuliani killed by police in genoa, Lee Kyung-hae, who sacrificed himself in cancun at a protest against the world trade organization….
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/wto/article/0,2763,1039709,00.html)…and the thousands of unnamed campesino farmers killed by paramilitaries, or dying of starvation, the hundreds, if not thousands of indian, bangladeshi and south korean farmers who commit suicide when they see their land, their life’s work, sold off for the profits of the global profiteers….
and now brad, whose commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless never wavered….even as they shot him down today in southern mexico…..with his video camera in his hand.
as bush & co. are pushing for world war III (or IV, depending on how you’re counting), there is another movement growing, a movement of nonviolent, passionate resistance to oppression.
brad felt it, in his last missive from mexico, written october 17th, he felt it so strongly…
“…. 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”
…and now he has given his life for this struggle. the global struggle, not just in oaxaca…as one of the striking teachers in oaxaca said, ‘this is not just for oaxaca, this is beyond oaxaca, beyond mexico….this is a challenge to the entrenched class system everywhere.’
it’s the same story as here in palestine, the same as anywhere in the world where people choose to say ya basta! (enough already!) to the powers that oppress and keep them down.
oaxaca is a neighboring province to the region of chiapas, made famous by the zapatista revolt that has been building autonomous communities based on consensus since 1994, oaxaca is home to mountains, plains and beaches (read: coffee, cattle, and tourism). control over these markets has long been a colonial and post-colonial exercise in power, with the poor, indigenous, laborers and farmers getting treated like dirt for too long.
the popular resistance in oaxaca followed in the spirit of the indigenous rebellion in chiapas, with one important distinction: while in chiapas the people rising up were mainly farmers, in oaxaca it began with a teacher’s strike. this was in may and june of this year, and when the governor brutally attacked the teachers in june, the people of oaxaca responded with a wide-scale popular movement in which they initiated a referendum voting out the corrupt, colonial-style governor in july, and shaming him and his party (the PRI) that have held power there since 1910.
but the governor wouldn’t listen to the peoples’ vote. so in august, the teachers and their supporters and compatriots decided to take over the corrupt, state-run media:
“On August 1, more than 3,000 women—all members of APPO (the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca)—marched through town, banging on pots and pans with spoons and meat tenderizers, chanting into the blanket of sound: “Whether he wants to go or not, Ulises is out of here!” The women went to the studio of the state television station, CORTV, and demanded an hour of live transmission to tell their version of what happened on June 14. The director of the station denied their request. But the women walked right past her, pots and pans in hand, took over the station, and broadcast live for over an hour. And they are still there, showing documentaries and broadcasting live daily.”
professor salzman in oaxaca explains:
“The real news consists of two salient facts: 1) the popular movement, which developed immediately following the attack on the striking education workers on 14 June 2006 has become a vast coalition of many different groups within Oaxacan society; and 2), which may be even more significant, nearly all adherent groups are strongly committed to a non-violent struggle based on militant civil disobedience. Of course, civil disobedience means ‘breaking the law’, as the perpetrators of the deadly ‘law ‘n order’ regime of the state governor and of the federal government are claiming while they prepare to crush the rebellion by military and para-military attacks. They [the governor and his paramilitaries] are itching to launch a ‘real clean-up operation’, a ‘clean sweep’ throughout the state of all ‘subversives’ who adhere to and support Section 22 of the Education Workers Union and/or APPO.”
the professor wrote on october 18th that the governor was preparing for a bloodbath, and pleads, just 10 days ago, for _someone_ to do _something_ to stop it. on that day he wrote, from oaxaca:
“As I walked in the bright sunshine into Sanchez Pasques Market and drank in with my eyes and ears the animated throngs of shoppers and vendors, children playing with little toys, the life of the market, the life of the people, I thought of other markets, of how everyday people pursue our lives as though normalcy, day after day, was what we could expect, other people in Sarajevo, in Beirut, in Baghdad. One can only hope that the confluence of social forces and consciousness in Oaxaca, in Mexico and in the world is such that there won’t be a bloodbath, either large or small, and that a true milagro méxicano, a Mexican miracle, will begin to show the world how to move from an anti-civilization of death to a true civilization of life.”
i’m sorry professor salzman, but it seems power is too entrenched….as is apathy….and the bloodbath, it seems, is beginning.
oh…..one other thing i just have to say….i just watched video footage of brad’s death on a spanish satellite channel……and i know everyone was scared and just trying to help, but please!! don’t ever pick up and start running with a severely injured person, jiggling their body all over the place. if you are ever in a situation where someone near you is shot or injured badly, especially in their midsection or back, do not move them. apply pressure, try to stop the bleeding….cpr if necessary, but don’t move them until a medical team with a backboard who knows how to move them into the ambulance arrives to do it. when rachel corrie was run over by an israeli bulldozer three years ago, her last words were “my back is broken”. she was conscious when she died. my husband, who was shot with eight bullets in his back and side in 1991, is sure he would have died if a bunch of people ran up and grabbed him and tried to carry him to the ambulance. i doubt that it would have helped brad, with the severity of his wound he probably would have died no matter what medical care he received. but i just have to say it….it hurts me whenever i see injured people being carried in that way by their comrades and friends who are trying to help, but are nearly always just making the injuries worse.
New York Indymedia has created a special page for Bradley Will