American Defender of Indigenous People Shot in the Philippines

Journalist and Activist, Brandon Lee fighting for his life
Joseph Smooke | 08/11/2019
Rally at San Francisco city hall for Brandon Lee
Photo Credit
Joseph Smooke (all photos)

On a day meant to be a worldwide celebration, in San Francisco there was a tearful reminder that defenders of indigenous people are under constant threat. Dozens rallied in grief and prayer in front of San Francisco’s City Hall to express support for Brandon Lee, a journalist and activist from San Francisco’s Sunset District who was shot and critically wounded just three days prior at his home in the Philippines.

Rally at San Francisco City Hall for Brandon Lee
Representatives from the Malaya Movement, Gabriela USA and the Cordillera People's Alliance stand together.

The United Nations has declared August 9 as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a day “aimed at realizing the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples” who the UN acknowledges are “arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world.” .

Pam Tau Lee of ICHRP
Pam Tau Lee of ICHRP

Pam Tau Lee, chairperson for the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) spoke at the rally, noting that Brandon had been volunteering as a paralegal for the Ifugao Peasant Movement which according to is “a farmers’ group that actively opposes a hydropower project and the military presence in the Cordillera region.” 

The crowd at San Francisco's City Hall
Crowd gathered at San Francisco's City Hall
Pam Tau Lee of ICHRP
Pam Tau Lee of ICHRP

Pam Tau Lee said, “He was doing right for the people and for the land. He became an environmental defender who fearlessly protects the land from logging, from mining, from confiscation. Defenders like Brandon are critical to all of us, to to world peace and to halting climate change.”

San Francisco District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar hosted the rally. Supervisor Mar met Brandon when Brandon was a student at San Francisco State University and a volunteer at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA). At the time of their meeting, Mar was the Executive Director of CPA. “I join with Brandon’s family and community in condemning the shooting.” Mar and his staff have been in communication with the offices of Speaker Pelosi, Senators Harris and Feinsten and Representative Speier.                                                       Mar is “calling for immediate security protection for Brandon from the US Embassy and for a thorough investigation of the shooting.”

Supervisor Gordon Mar
San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar

Supervisor Mar and chairperson Lee articulated a very clear set of demands:

Immediate protection for Brandon Lee as a US citizen under attack in a foreign country;

Full investigation into the attack on Brandon Lee; and

Full investigation into how US military aid is used in the Philippines, to expose if that aid is being used for extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses by the government and armed forces of the Philippines.

Supervisor Mar said, “The attack on Brandon is an attack on advocates for human rights and freedom everywhere. I join his friends and family in their grief and anger over this injustice.”

Reverend Norman Fong
Reverend Norman Fong

Presbyterian minister Norman Fong who, during the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the  Philippines visited the same area where Brandon Lee has been working and volunteering said,  “Blessed are the peacemakers. Bless those those are being persecuted for protecting your creation and your people.”

Brandon Lee, a US citizen, was shot four times and remains in the hospital in critical condition. Local organizations are hosting events and online resources to raise funds to support his recovery. There is also a coordinated effort to mobilize representatives in Washington DC to protect Brandon, and to ensure accountability for those who attempted to take his life.


You Can Do Something!

There’s a Go Fund Me campaign and a fundraising event coming up Tuesday night, August 13th from 6-8pm at Bindlestiff Studio (185 6th Street, San Francisco) all to raise money to help Brandon’s family with his medical bills. This is where you’ll find the latest updates on Brandon’s condition.

Fundraising event at Bindlestiff
Fundraising event in San Francisco


Contact your representatives in Washington

Senator Kamala Harris’ staff:

Director Adam Mehis:

Director Katherine Pantangco:

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff:

Abigail Ellis:

Lyad Shihadeh:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff:

Director Dan Bernal:

Staff person Miguel Guerrero:

Staff person David Latt:

Representative Jackie Speier's staff:

Director Brian Perkins:

It’s important to copy all of these San Francisco representatives and advocates on all correspondence you send to people in DC: