LATIN AMERICA

“We must raise our voices, scream louder than the bullets”

Thousands of students in Mexico City protest the disappearance of 43 students

Mexico City -
A student tries to set the General Prosecutor’s Office building on fire.
A student tries to set the General Prosecutor’s Office building on fire.S.G. (EFE)

“They took them away alive so we want them back alive,” they chanted in unison. Thousands of students from 32 schools congregated in Mexico City on Wednesday to demand that authorities expedite the investigation to find 43 student teachers who disappeared on September 26 in Iguala, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

“We must raise our voices, scream louder than the bullets,” said Javier Bautista, a lecturer at Iberoamérica University, as he stood in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office at one of the marches.

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That morning, more than 4,000 students gathered on the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to show their support for the teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, which the victims attended. Around 30 schools throughout the country – most of them public – joined in the protest by canceling classes on Wednesday and Thursday. Erick Cervantes, a 20-year-old political science student, put down his books to attend both demonstrations. As he walked to the General Prosecutor’s Office, he encouraged people to raise their voices: “We have to wake up. It’s time for the entire nation to unite so that the government will put an end to the violence.” He and 60 of his classmates joined 500 people in front of the building, which was soon covered with photos of the missing student teachers.

“The Mexican government has made the effort to look for graves but not for our comrades, who are still alive,” said Citlali Hernández, a member of Serapaz, a civic organization that joined the protest. Hernández was one of the main speakers at the march that took place in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office. Her short speech made clear that 50 arrests were not enough to clear up the case and that she and the students were not willing to take any sops. “We won’t accept them tying the disappearances to organized crime when we know by all accounts that it was a crime committed by the state. Police and civil servants at various levels of government were involved.”

We won’t accept them tying this to organized crime when we know it was a crime committed by the state”

Near the end of the protest, the fury of a small group of students finally roused the crowd. Demonstrators threw rocks and sticks at the building’s glass façade. “A few broken pieces of glass are nothing compared to the lives of 43 people,” said one rioter who had covered up his face. No police were deployed and traffic officers kept a discreet watch over the scene. The students’ rage came to an end as night fell.

The 30 or so schools that canceled classes are also considering another stoppage on October 22 and October 23.

“Mexico will not be the same,” Bautista told the crowd. “Let the pain we feel over the missing give us the strength to keep walking ... We are all part of the same protest.” The lecturer then raised his right fist in the air and began to pump as he chanted: “... 41,42, 43. There are 43 of them and we want them alive.”

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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