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Police and students clash as protests turn violent

December 3, 2012

Police officers attack student demonstrators with their truncheons. Photo by Alejandro Velazco.

Around 45 protesters and seven police officers were injured in Guadalajara as protests against the inauguration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto turned violent on Saturday, December 1.

Truncheon wielding riot police arrested 27 protesters outside Guadalajara’s International Book Fair (FIL) after a small number of them threw stones and glass bottles.

Protesters – mostly young students – had gathered at the Tianguis Cultural market early Saturday to express their discontent at the investiture of Peña Nieto, who returned the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power after an absence of 12 years. The group swelled to around 500 as they marched to the local PRI headquarters and the studios of broadcaster Televisa, before moving on to the Expo Guadalajara where the FIL was being held.

Rodrigo Cornejo of the #YoSoy132 student movement was present throughout the day. He told the Reporter that the trouble began when a group of four of five people started throwing stones at the PRI and Televisa offices, breaking several windows.

In both cases, Cornejo said “there were police officers 10 to 12 meters away who made no attempt to stop or detain those throwing stones.” Instead, members of #YoSoy132 tried to prevent the assailants from throwing missiles.

Peaceful #YoSoy132 demonstrators tried to prevent the minority of violent protesters from throwing rocks at the PRI and Televisa offices.

Guadalajara Mayor Ramiro Hernandez confirmed this week that the march was “infiltrated by agent provocateurs who seek nothing more than to create conflict and violence.”

Photographer Juana Cazares was on hand to capture the events for the Reporter. She confirmed there was a “small group of protesters throwing stones and bottles” at the two officers before an increasing police presence.

When the demonstrators arrived at the Expo on Avenida Las Rosas and Mariano Otero, Cazares said there were many granaderos (riot police) awaiting them and blocking their path to the entrance. The protesters began throwing oranges and other objects at the police, who hurled the same missiles back at them, she said.

“The police were daring us to come nearer and the students were shouting back at them,” Cornejo said. When the demonstrators breached the metal fence, the police stormed the crowd with their truncheons. Several officers “beat a group of people that were carrying away a girl who had suffered a broken leg,” Cornejo said.

“The police were abusive, they became more violent than the students,” said Reporter photographer Juana Cazares.

“The police were abusive, they became more violent than the students,” Cazares confirmed. “They even went after young people who were just sitting on the sidewalks.”

The police arrested 27 people, including nine women and one minor. Eighteen of the detainees belonged to the #YoSoy132 movement and at least two were pedestrians walking past the FIL at the wrong time.

“One of them was arrested because he tried to intervene when police were hitting a woman,” Cornejo said.

Marco Antonio Cortes, rector of the University of Guadalajara (organizers of the FIL),  said he “categorically rejected” the events that occurred outside the book fair. The university “has always been open to dialogue and the free manifestation of ideas but when violence invades public space we all become hostages,” he said in a statement.

Around 150 members of #YoSoy132 and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) marched to the Jalisco Attorney General’s Office (PGJEJ) offices on Sunday to demand the prisoners’ release. They face charges of assault, vandalism and damage to private property and must pay a collective fine of 80,000 pesos, plus bail of 2,000 pesos per person.

Around 500 demonstrators marched across Guadalajara on Saturday to express their discontent at Enrique Peña Nieto’s inauguration.

Of the 27 people arrested, two were bailed on Sunday, and eight more were due for release on Monday afternoon, the PGJEJ said. Family members and students have so far raised 60,000 pesos in a bid to free the remainder, Cornejo told the reporter.

Four of the wounded police officers have filed complaints against the protesters with the PGJEJ, while Guadalajara’s Public Security Commissioner Carlos Mercado Casillas said on Monday that there will be an investigation into alleged police brutality during the confrontation with demonstrators.

Similar disturbances occurred across Mexico City during Peña Nieto’s inauguration. Officials in the capital said 103 people were detained, including 11 minors, following clashes between demonstrators and the police.

Twelve officers were injured by groups of what the government described as “anarchists” throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, while at least 76 people were treated for injuries – including 29 who were hospitalized – when the police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Police in riot gear were awaiting the demonstrators at the Expo Guadalajara.

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