Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

BAMN Activist Murdered

27. June 2005 • Ari Paul
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Joe Wagner, an activist with BAMN, was stabbed to death on Saturday night in Detroit.

  1. I’m glad he’s not forgotten.

    I hope someone will arrange a memorial meeting for him, and that ArborUpdate will be there.

    His work should be carried on.

    Those who disagreed with him should still carry on with fighting racism, in their own way.

    In Benton Harbor, and in Ann Arbor, too.
       —Blaine    Jun. 28 '05 - 12:21AM    #
  2. Seeing his picture in the News was kind of startling; I recognized him as the guy who was handing out flyers for DAAP in the Art/Architecture building last election cycle. I found him to be one of the most reasonable BAMN members I’d ever had occasion to disagree with.
       —Murph.    Jun. 28 '05 - 01:35PM    #
  3. The fact that he was killed for his involvement with BAMN is just disgusting. Nobody has the right to silence people’s POVs in the form of murder.
       —Amit    Jun. 28 '05 - 08:59PM    #
  4. “The fact that he was killed for his involvement with BAMN….”

    The linked-to Ann Arbor News article doesn’t say that. Indeed, it gives the impression that pretty much nothing is known about who did it or why. Do you have another source of information?
       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 28 '05 - 09:14PM    #
  5. “IN BRIEF”

    Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    On the Web at:

    “Police follow leads in fatal stabbing case”

    “Detroit Police continue to search for suspects and a motive in the stabbing death of a 2002 Pioneer High School graduate at a church festival and dance in Detroit on Saturday night.

    “Sgt. John Claybourne said investigators are following several leads in the death of 21-year-old Joe Wagner and are asking for the public’s help in the case. Claybourne said police have no suspects in the slaying, which occurred at 11:20 p.m. in the parking lot of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.

    “Wagner was stabbed from behind and died about 11 hours later at Henry Ford Hospital.

    “Wagner, who grew up in Ann Arbor, moved to Detroit in January. He was working for the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), which is fighting a ballot initiative that would ban affirmative action in Michigan.

    “Anyone with information on the slaying is asked to call the Detroit homicide division at (313) 596-2260.

    “Visitation will be 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Nie Lifestory Funeral Home, 2400 Carpenter Road. It will continue on Friday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 2250 E. Stadium Blvd. from 10 a.m. until Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.”


    Also, in today’s “Detroit Free Press”:

    “Rights worker slain at carnival:
    “Man, 21, sought to make Detroit safe”

    June 28, 2005

    On the Web at:


    Joe Wagner moved to Detroit to witness firsthand the frustration, oppression and dangers facing city residents.

    Six months later, he is dead, stabbed in the back while attending a church carnival on Detroit’s southwest side on Saturday night, police say.

    Friends and family said Wagner’s death was more than a personal loss: Wagner, 21, had dedicated his life to fighting intolerance and racism. As a young, white man involved in an activist group made up mostly of minorities, he was an anomaly.

    “It’s so rare to find young civil rights activists today who really are prepared to devote their lives to something you don’t make a lot of money at,” said Shanta Driver, a Detroit director of the national group By Any Means Necessary, which has been battling efforts to dismantle affirmative action.

    “You’re rewarded because you make such a big difference in people’s lives. Joe was prepared to do this, to never get paid, to just dedicate himself to it.”

    Wagner ended up at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church carnival by chance. He, along with fellow members of BAMN, met with church officials Saturday to ask if they could host a forum there opposing efforts to place an anti-affirmative action measure before Michigan voters next year.

    “They said, just as a social event, you should all come down if you can,” Driver said. “So Joe and a couple of people went.”

    Wagner, who’d moved from Ann Arbor in January, danced to the live music late into the night, Driver said. He eventually broke away from his friends to get a soda.

    His friends beckoned him to rejoin them on the dance floor, but Wagner wanted to finish his drink. When his friends looked back, Wagner was staggering, and several men were running away.

    Wagner’s dad, John Wagner of Ann Arbor, got a call within a few minutes from one of Joe’s friends. His son initially thought he’d been pushed or punched, the caller told him; Joe’s friends soon realized he’d been stabbed.

    “He was conscious, he was able to give our phone number” to his friend, John Wagner said. “We didn’t realize it was that bad.”

    But the damage was severe: Wagner had been stabbed in the back. His aorta was nicked. He underwent surgery at Henry Ford Hospital. Six hours later, in the intensive care unit, he started bleeding again.

    Driver said Wagner went back into surgery before being returned to ICU. He died about 11 a.m. Sunday.

    “He didn’t know the people at the festival,” said Driver. “There was no exchange, no fight. There was security there. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, leading up to this.”

    After the stabbing, rumors circulated that Wagner had danced with the wrong girl and had been attacked by a jealous boyfriend, but Detroit Police Department spokesman James Tate couldn’t confirm that Monday.

    Police say there are no suspects in the slaying, but they are questioning several witnesses.

    Wagner was studying at Eastern Michigan University but took a year off to lobby against the proposal backed by Ward Connerly, a California businessman and national leader in the campaign to end affirmative action.

    Connerly’s Michigan Civil Rights Initiative would bar the use of race and gender in government hiring, contracting and university admissions.

    Wagner graduated from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. John Wagner said his son took an interest in civil rights after high school.

    “When he became aware of the struggles minorities were facing in different parts of the country, he was deeply moved,” said John Wagner, 57.

    Visitation has tentatively been set for Thursday at Nie Family Funeral Home, 2400 Carpenter, Ann Arbor. The funeral is expected to be Friday. For information on final arrangements, call 734-971-2345.

    Contact AMBER HUNT MARTIN at 313-222-2708 or


       —Blaine    Jun. 28 '05 - 09:42PM    #
  6. I’m basing my comment on this portion of the article above:

    “He, along with fellow members of BAMN, met with church officials Saturday to ask if they could host a forum there opposing efforts to place an anti-affirmative action measure before Michigan voters next year.”
       —Amit    Jun. 28 '05 - 10:31PM    #
  7. Well, Amit, I think we can all agree with this part:

    “Nobody has the right to silence people’s POVs in the form of murder.”

    Damn straight.

    I’ll note that I, personally, don’t get anything from either of the articles that would indicate BAMN affiliation as the cause of the killing. However, I think it’s safe to say,

    1. If he were killed for his affiliation for BAMN, it’s horrible.
    2. If he were killed for “dancing with the wrong girl”, it’s horrible.
    3. If he were killed totally randomly, it’s horrible.
    4. He was killed: it’s horrible. Do we need to jump to conclusions?
       —Murph.    Jun. 28 '05 - 11:22PM    #
  8. But then again Bruce, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
       —Amit    Jun. 28 '05 - 11:22PM    #
  9. That seems a . . . tenuous connection at best.

    Here’s a thought—-maybe we should wait for some actual information before jumping to conclusions?
       —[libcat]    Jun. 28 '05 - 11:27PM    #
  10. Yeah definetely agreed, libcat. I definetely learned something out of this. Be more careful about the data you analyze from news articles and giving your input I guess. I apologize if I had offended anyone in the process.
       —Amit    Jun. 29 '05 - 03:51PM    #
  11. Amit: no prob. I don’t think anybody here isn’t curious why he was attacked. Let us know if you see any more information that we miss; our news-radar is limited.
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 03:54PM    #
  12. I was shocked to see th news report the other day. I had interacted with him a few times, and as opposed to most of the other BAMN members, he was actually a cordial, nice person. We talked, and agreed to disagree over the means his group choose to do their mission.
    Either way, it really does not matter why he was killed, it is horrible to lose a good, young man, with a bright future. God Bless you, Joe, you family and friends will miss you.
       —sid    Jun. 30 '05 - 10:29PM    #
  13. This is sad. R.I.P.

    I heard he played football at Pioneer so it kind of hits close to home

    I hope his family will survive this horrible event
       —Hadeer    Jul. 2 '05 - 09:33PM    #