Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bike ride for Brad-Report

More photos of the ride at nyc indymedia Photos posted by Brendan.

About 50 people rode bikes around Manhattan yesterday in solidarity with the popular uprising in Oaxaca Mexico and for slain biker and activist Brad Will. The independent journalist, Brad Will was murdered by "plain clothes," Mexican paramilitaries while covering the repression of an ongoing battle for freedom which started as a teachers strike 5 months ago. Brad went down to Oaxaca to document the individual stories of those living in a city under siege and was killed during recent protests on Friday 10/27/06. Brad's untimely death has sent shock waves through the independent media and activist communities because Brad died while doing what he loved, documenting, being on the front lines and getting the story that most major news outlets were ignoring. Brad Will touched many circles of journalists, activists, cyclists, environmentalist and artists with his warm intentions, soulful music and gracious heart for social issues and for those engaged in making a better world through revolutionary struggles.
more photos posted by Onto on

Dozens of local activists paid tribute to Brad with a memorial bike ride yesterday, riding around the city despite constant police harassment in their ongoing war against demonstrations and activism. As much as we talk about how much the terrorist "hate our freedom" the US government continues to strip down our civil liberties diminishing our freedoms on a daily basis both locally and internationally. What freedoms do the terrorist hate exactly? Our freedoms of the press to be able to go to foreign countries unembeded with a major network, get shot down in the line of duty and have our death's ignored by the state department who claims no responsibility? The freedom to apply for a permit in order to have a bike ride with 30 or more people to travel 2 blocks? The freedom to allow Republican Candidates to be major share holders in companies that make fraudulent electronic voting machines and rig elections? The freedom to torture and detain indefinitely anyone suspected of terrorism with out due process or access to independent council? Wow, I'd be pretty jealous of all those freedoms. Like the freedom of our King, George W. Bush who can freely wipe his own ass with the very piece of paper our freedoms are inscribe on...the US Constitution.

We "freely assembled" and rode our bike out from 40th St. and the West Side Highway and headed towards times square. People carried homemade art work and signs in tribute to Brad Will being present and with us. There was 2 ghost bikes dedicated to Brad and one had a beautiful piece of artwork with depicted the cameraman shooting video.

photos by Onto

photo by M

A ghost bike is a white painted bicycle which is designed to be locked to a street pole and a reminder of cyclists who are killed on the streets. We also had banners and a 3 wheel sound bike which played local Oaxaca protest music through a generator operated traveling CD player and speaker. The ride snaked its way through Time's Square, obeying traffic laws and allowing cars to pass as much as humanly possible. A scooter brigade of cops and a few squad cars stayed in the back of the ride and complied with the bikers action. We rode to the NYTimes and read a speech about Brad's death so they would know the truth. Their was rumor believed that this paper printed false information that Brad died in a fire fight implying that the police were justified in killing demonstrators in Oaxaca, resulting in numerous deaths including Brad Will's. Rumors could not be substantiated and there was a well researched and heart warming story printed about Brad in the Times yesterday written by a journalist who knew Brad from East Village activism, written by Colin Moyniham.

After flipping the times the middle finger, we rode out towards 9th Ave, downtown on 9th and then made a left on 42nd St. Now our police escort had increased to a full scooter brigade and a dozen squad cars circled around us with sirens and lights in an intimidating display of force. These same cops had been stationed near our meeting spot, in front of the Javits Center waiting for the ride to leave. The ride headed East with shouts in Spanish and popular slogans in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca. On the East side we ran into a dozen Unite union workers who were locked out of their jobs demanding equal pay and health insurance. We exchanged flyers about our individual causes and joined in chants of "what do we want...justice...when do we want it...Now! (in both Spanish and English) Then the ride headed over to the Mexican Mission to the US which is housed in a glass building adjacent to the Untied Nations building on 1st Ave. We moved in on the sidewalk towards the front door and held up bikes and our banners making a loud ruckus. One white shirted lieutenant who had been calm and negotiating with us began to shove us singlehandedly back into the street in a vein attempt to move us. At this point he called for backup and an arrest paddywagon and more police waited for us on 1st Ave. Eventually moving in a few officers to stand guard at the front door with plastic handcuffs in case arrests were going to be made. We milled around the front of the mission for 20 minutes or so and tried to chain up the ghost bike memorial of Brad. The police were all over it and demanded we couldn't leave it anywhere, so we loaded the bike and signs onto a pedicab which had joined in our protest ride. We waited around to fix a flat tire and declared the ride over. The police felt embarrassed and caught off guard by our actions and primal screaming. Their feathers were ruffled. Although the protest was over and we were riding back downtown as a small group...a new shift of cops had come onto the scene with a different agenda. All day long we had been obeying traffic laws as much as possible. The reality is, when there are no cars coming you often move your bike across the crosswalk at a red light and drift into the all city cyclists do. The police were allowing this to happen and not being nit-picky about running lights which most of the time we had agreed as a group not to do. One silver track bike had crossed over to the other side of the street at around 26th st, at one such red light. The same white shirted lieutenant from many critical masses, who was shoving us one minute at the UN, then calmly talking to us and even making jokes decided it was time to ramp it up with this small group going home. Now it was all business. Remember this is a three way intersection on 2nd Ave. heading downtown. There is no through traffic because of apartments on the East Side of the street near Bellevue is very hard to block traffic, all vehicles heading Eastbound must turn right onto a wide 5 lane wide 2nd Ave. There is no reason to vere that far to the left and all of the rest of us were stopped at the red light. Suddenly the cops shifted into Critical Mass attack mode and pulled over the guy on the track bike to give him a summons. The guy turned around and rode uptown against traffic and the white shirt yelled "let him go." The guy seemed to get away and the next thing I know he had looped back and joined our group still at the red light. Now the police were extra pissed and embarrassed so they got the guy off his bike and three cops tackled him to the floor. Senseless really...on both parties account. But this is America and we are free to have one lane of traffic and an escort of 50 cops to go on a bike ride. One word of advice and take it for what ever its worth. If the cops want to give you a ticket for running a red light at a protest...take it. It's 60 bucks and you can probably get it reduced or dropped if the cop doesn't show up in court. I would also say be "I'm really sorry officer, It seemed that you guys were monitoring our whole ride without any problem with the lights. I didn't realize this was such a big deal, especially on at an intersection where cars can't even drive through to the other side." There is a good chance the cop will write a bs ticket and you will get it dropped. And if you do run...please please ride away...don't come back into the group."

It was a good day for Brad. We rode, we made noise, we honored Brad and felt his spirit with us. Long live Brad Will.
Photos of Brad's memorial in Oaxaca
Photos posted by John Gibler
"These photos are from an altar dedicated to Brad in Santa Lucia where paramilitaries shot him. I will post an article about these altars tomorrow."


Article on Brad in the New York Daily News by journalist Juan Gonzalez

Camera his weapon vs. injustice

When the bullets started to fly, New York photojournalist Bradley Will was clutching a camera, doing what he loved most - filming a group of downtrodden people fighting for respect in some forgotten corner of our world.
This was last Friday, on a narrow street on the outskirts of Oaxaca, Mexico, where Will, 36, a longtime member of New York's radical IndyMedia Center, had gone in early October to document an amazing story.

It is one our own national media somehow managed to ignore for five long months.

Since June, residents of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico's poorest region, have been in open yet relatively peaceful rebellion against the abuses of their governor, Ulises Ruiz.

Thousands of teachers have shut down all the public schools throughout the state. Their supporters in the student and trade union movements, numbering in the tens of thousands, occupied the grand old central plaza in the capital city.

The protesters chased Ruiz and his administration out of the state capital. They took over the radio and television stations and organized spontaneous so-called Oaxaca People's Assemblies in dozens of smaller towns across the state.

They vowed to keep up the protests until Ruiz, a leader of Mexico's corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party, resigned.

Not since China's Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989 had a Third World nation witnessed such a massive and intractable public protest.

But you couldn't tell that by watching network news reports in this country or reading the national press. Here was Mexico, our next-door neighbor and one of the world's most populous nations, in the throes of a huge crisis, and the big American media paid no attention.

So Jenny Smith, Will's close friend for many years, wasn't surprised when she heard he was heading for Oaxaca.

Smith first met Will back in 1993, when she was 19 and they were both budding poets in Boulder, Colo., enrolled in something called the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

"Every issue that involved people being oppressed or needing help, Brad wanted to be there," Smith said yesterday. "He was just fearless."

For a few years, Will wandered the country, first as a tree-sitting environmental activist in the Pacific Northwest, then as a squatter and defender of community gardens on the lower East Side. At some point, he picked up a camera and turned to documentary films.

He took his camera to Ecuador and Brazil to do stories on peasants fighting to recover their land, and to Prague to chronicle protests against the World Trade Organization.

Wherever there was a cause the big commercial media ignored, Will headed there to tell the story.

"He went to places where popular movements were trying to create direct democracy," said Eric Laursen, another longtime friend. "Sometimes, he seemed to defy gravity."

There are more than a few in our modern media who desperately want to dismiss social activist-journalists such as Will, the same way that a hundred years ago others sought to discredit muckrakers like Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair.

Last Friday, Will was filming on the outskirts of Oaxaca in a place where no other American journalist had bothered to go.

His film, available on, shows a large red dump truck drive onto a narrow street. A few dozen protesters start throwing rocks at the men in the truck, who are supporters of the government.

Suddenly, men in plainclothes from the truck begin to fire guns. The crowd retreats. Another shot is fired and Will is heard crying out.

His camera, still running, falls to the ground. Will, shot in the stomach, would die minutes later.

Initial press reports in this country claimed he died in a crossfire. His 80-second film clip, however, shows no crossfire. All the shooting came from one side.

The next day, thousands of federal police moved in and retook the city's downtown in a show of force. Early this week, Oaxaca's governor refused a request by both houses of Mexico's congress for his resignation, so the crisis continues.

Maybe now it will get a little more attention.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A ghost bike in NYC, for a guy killed in Mexico? That really undercuts the message put forth by all the other GBs out there. The ones showing where people ACTUALLY died due to poor road conditions in New York.

Co-opt something else!

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the ghost bike project is open source and takes different forms in different cities already.

it has been 'co-opted' a few times by various groups, and this instance seems well-intentioned and harmless.

visual resistance supports anyone who is making art for brad will in any way.

10:18 AM  
Blogger teamspider said...

Brad was regular NYC bicycle rider and Critical Mass documentor / participant,
Brad's life was his art and he was killed on his canvas; the streets

His ghost bike was made and presented by the bike community. A community who knew and loved Brad, and appropriately chose their most tragic icon as a symbol of tribute.

The only thing that has been Co-opted was yer Mom,
by the High School Football Team.

Please co-opt some new terminology.

10:27 PM  

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