Five Political Martyrs You Should Know But Probably Don't

Every cause has its martyrs. Christians had Jesus. The civil rights movement had Martin Luther King Jr. The American right had those who died at Waco and Ruby Ridge. And every year, Denver Anarchist Black Cross hosts The Martyr's Ball, a fundraiser for the organization that celebrates those who have died fighting for their cause. Attendees are supposed to dress up as their favorite martyrs, and to help them avoid coming as the some predictable cast of characters, we've put together a list of five anarchist and leftist martyrs that you may not have heard of — but should know.

See also: Ricardo Flores Magon Academy: Why Was Embattled School Named for Anarchist Writer?

5) Carlo Guiliani

Two years after activists shut down the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999, protesters flooded the streets of Genoa, Italy to try to stop the G8 Summit, where the leaders of eight nations were meeting, far away from their voters and pesky lawmakers, to decide the fate of the global economy. One young anti-capitalist protester, Carlo Guiliani, attempted to push back the carabiniere; He picked up a fire extinguisher to chuck at the Italian cops. They shot him and fled, running him over in the process. Guiliani became an icon for the counter-globalization movement; his mother went on to become a senator for the Communist Refoundation Party.

4) Los Seis de Boulder

Colorado was a hotbed of Chicano activism in the 1970s, and the University of Colorado at Boulder was at the heart of the struggle. Students organized for financial aid for Latino students, ethnic studies classes and equal rights. Their organizing often resulted in clashes with white vigilantes, police and the FBI. Los Seis de Boulder, also known as Symbols of Resistance, were six young people killed by bombs. Some say they were killed trying to build the bombs; others say the bombs were planted by the government, and the activists were framed. Read on for more of the top five political martyrs.

3) Arin Mirkin

The YPK, the Women's Protection Movement, is a Kurdish feminist militia fighting the Islamic State in Syria. The group has been at the forefront of the struggle to keep ISIS out of Kobani. In October, YPK member Arin Mirkin blew herself up in the process of killing several ISIS militants attempting to take over the city. Her act has been praised by Kurdish sympathizers, anarchists and others. She's featured as one of the heroes on this year's Martyr's Ball poster.

2) It? Noe

In the early twentieth century, Japanese anarchist It? Noe translated the writings of Emma Goldman into Japanese and edited the radical feminist political magazine Blue Stockings, devoting her literary efforts to building a platform for people to debate the merits of free love, prostitution and abortion. But along with many anarchists and socialists, she was arrested after the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Japan, killing over 100,000 people. In 1923 the state accused her and ten others of attempting to assassinate the emperor and executed them all.

1) Brad Will

Throughout the past fifteen years, teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico have regularly gone on strike for better working conditions and in opposition to federally mandated testing. Tens of thousands of teachers peacefully protested these policies and blockaded government buildings and corporations. Their activities incurred the wrath of Oaxaca's governor, who sent in state militias that killed upwards of twenty teachers. In 2006, New York-based activist Brad Will was videotaping the protests when he was shot.

The 2014 Martyr's Ball starts at 6:30 p.m. November 15 at Rhinoceropolis, 3553 Brighton Boulevard. A $10 donation is suggested, but no one will be turned away. Get more information at Find me on Twitter at: @kyle_a_harris

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris