<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Students Maintain Blockade Despite Repression

Police Beat and Gas Students at the National School of Anthropology and History


By Juan Trujillo
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Mexico City

May 13, 2006

MEXICO CITY, MAY 11, 2006: In keeping with the resolutions taken in the National Assembly of the Other Campaign in San Salvador Atenco, dozens of students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM in its Spanish initials) began the blockade of Insurgentes Avenue – the largest city thoroughfare in Latin America – at 8:30 am sharp on May 11. Without any major conflict, the students were able to negotiate directly with the police who approached the demonstration. The agreement: to keep one lane of traffic open to let the vehicles pass in order to inform the drivers and hand out flyers explaining the violence in the last few days that the media have hidden. Surveillance helicopters flew over the entire campus.


Photos: D.R. 2006 Erwin Slim
At the same time that this collective action in protest of the violence, the rapes and incarceration of political prisoners on May 3 and 4 in Texcoco and Atenco was being held, word spread that on the outskirts of the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) campus, state forces were attacking and repressing demonstrators at another event. These included students and professors from ENAH, from the College of Science and Humanities (CCH) South and the National Pedagogic University (UPN), as well as other adherents to the Other Campaign. The demonstrators at ENAH had tried unsuccessfully to block the Periférico, an important expressway that cuts through this megalopolis.

The UNAM students were immediately concerned about the reported use of tear gas and pepper spray at the ENAH.

Moments later, upon arriving at the ENAH facilities, this reporter was able to observe a long line of Mexico City police along the fence that leads to the Cuicuilco archeological site. There in charge of “public order” were some 300 officers, led by the Department of Public Safety’s Task Force Group (AFT).

Rocks, Glubs, Gas and Beatings

Although Mexico City’s secretary of public safety, Joel Ortega, assured that no one was injured or arrested and that the police had gone in unarmed, the students’ version of the events was completely different.

A social anthropology student who asked to remain anonymous said that even before their attempt to block the traffic artery, “there were grenadier (riot) police waiting.” When the students began to block the highway, “the police to confront them; there were blows, insults and several demonstrators were hurt.” The teargas, he said, blinded everyone.

The atmosphere changed to one of tension, fear and distress among the students and professors. Confusion and anger over the direct attack on the campus ruled.

According to another student, an ethnology major who also asked to remain anonymous, “the police were already there before the blockade began. They ran into the Periférico, pushing through with their shields, hitting and launching gas.” The tearing eyes and pale face of this student bore witness to the effect of the repressive action. But the confrontation continued between the two sides: “We started to throw stones from the campus, and they responded. There were about three people injured in the head… We asked for dialog, but the commander who was in charge of the operation preferred to repress first and negotiate later.”

According to this student, there were at least four people injured from the ENAH, two from a local high school and five from CCH South, who were beaten by police. As he showed this reporter the marks left by blows to his chest, he commented that “many people have experienced hostilities in the streets, and have been infiltrated. There are people who try to intimidate us and then slip away.” He remembered how on March 16, during the World Water Forum in Mexico City, the students also protested and “we were also repressed, probably by the same people, civilians.”

The students were obviously trying to carry out a peaceful protest today. The ethnology student was firm and honest in his declaration with respect to the current situation in the country: “It was a confrontation between the ENAH and the police. Our goal was simply to inform, to have some effect on civil society.” As others had claimed, he said that “there was o dialog, before we came out the police was already there, the ENAH surrounded by state forces.”

The Injured

Moments later, as this reporter was in the ENAH buildings documenting the number and names of the injured with the help of Radio Zapote, the several student groups — with solidarity in their eyes and energy in their feet — managed to negotiate with the police chiefs in order to march down Insurgentes Avenue to “University City,” the UNAM campus, where demonstrators where were blocking that artery. The students from the ENAH, CCH South, UPN and members of the metropolitan coordinating committee if the Other Campaign regrouped and walked together to the 1:00 pm meeting at the UNAM administration building.

After holding a dialog and shouting protest slogans, the demonstrators from the ENAH campus marched down Insurgentes, then University Avenue and finally down Cerro del Agua street where they arrived at the Department of Philosophy and Letters, where another contingent from the CCH South joined up for the final stretch. They were about 700 protesters in total; they walked, shouted, passed out information… and a few couples could be seen kissing.

In the afternoon, ENAH director José Ortiz Pedraza gave a press conference where he played a video taken by one student of the police aggression. Ortiz said that the forces of order, contrary to what had happened at other blockades that day, had no desire to negotiate with the students. He expressed the great concern with which the communities had received news of the violent repression.

The only injured that day were at the ENAH demonstration: Carlos Pérez Garcia (ENAH), Susana López Martinez (CCH South), Daniel A Sánchez Vázquez (CCH South), Emiliano Garcia Moreno (CCH South), Samuel González Contreras (CCH South), Daniel Santa Maria (CCH South) and Edith Asial (ENAH). That night it was reported that there were blockades all around the city — on five highways leading out of the city and several major avenues— but in the end none of them had any more success than the one at UNAM. Especially on the blockades of city streets, the police easily broke up the blockades.

But it was a day of energy and rebellion for the students. This could be the genesis of a real movement coming out of the solidarity of the classroom.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America