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In the ruins of New Orleans

California activist and anarchist Kirsten Brydum traveled the states, full of young ideas on how capitalism might be replaced with something kinder. Her journey ended in the 9th Ward.

January 31, 2009|Richard Fausset

Her body had been found by a church group gutting houses in the 9th Ward; it was lying unidentified in the morgue. Brydum had been shot four times in the face. New Orleans police detectives began their search for a killer, but have thus far had no luck.

When the news reached the Bay Area, some of her fellow activists wondered if there had been a conspiracy. Some suspected the CIA.

"Kirsten's death looks more like a hit job rather than a random act of murder," someone called SF Activist commented on one blog, one of a number of similar comments. "New Orleans is still a militarized zone and it's quite possible she was targeted by hired guns."

New Orleanians tended to respond to such comments with a weary disbelief.

"Hired guns?!" a respondent named Sterno wrote after an essay on "Every murder here in New Orleans looks like a 'hit job', mainly because our criminals are professionals."

Viola, the boyfriend, flew to New Orleans to meet with homicide detectives. He held meetings with anti-violence activists and a few young radicals. With his encouragement, they established a system that provides escorts to anyone who feels uncomfortable biking alone at night.

Brydum's mother, Mamie Page, always respected Kirsten's ideas and ideals, even when she didn't share them.

In an e-mail message, she said her younger daughter told her that Kirsten "would have been more about forgiveness than punishment for this crime, and focusing more on the issue of violence against women and rehabilitating the criminal."

"I can't get my brain around that one," said Page, a paralegal living in Portland, Ore. "For obvious reasons."

Other family members noted, with a disgusted irony, that the killer may have been covering up a robbery. Brydum's bag and bicycle were not found at the scene.

"It's kind of pathetic," said Brydum's aunt, Catherine Page-Evans, of Woodland Hills. "Of course, she would have given it to them."


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