Mexico: protests link Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Garner

Hundreds of Mexican immigrants and other activists held actions in at least 47 US towns and cities on Dec. 3 to protest the abduction of 43 teachers' college students by police and gang members in Mexico's Guerrero state in September; each of the 43 students had one of the actions dedicated to him. The protests were organized by UStired2, a group taking its name from #YaMeCansé ("I'm tired now," or "I've had it"), a Mexican hashtag used in response to the violence against the students, who attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. The protesters focused on US government financing for the Mexican government—especially funding for the "war on drugs" through the 2008 Mérida Initiative—but they also expressed outrage over the US court system's failure to indict US police agents in two recent police killings of unarmed African Americans.

The protest "is a community effort by Mexicans living in the US [to show] that we don't want our tax money to finance the Mexican government, which is corrupt," Karla de Anda, one of the organizers of the protest in Miami, told the Associated Press wire service. "They're giving [Mexican authorities] money for arms," US writer and activist Roberto Lovato said at a New York vigil. "They're giving armament for disappearing people, for creating mass graves." Signs at the various protests called for an end to "Plan Mexico," comparing the Mérida Initiative to the bloody US-funded Plan Colombia of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The US has given Mexico $1.2 billion under the initiative, according to Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The Mexican actions were planned just as many people in the US were protesting a grand jury's decision on Nov. 24 not to indict a white Ferguson, Mo. police agent, Darren Wilson, for the August shooting death of an unarmed African-American youth, Michael Brown. On Dec. 3, as the Ayotzinapa actions were mounting, a grand jury announced its decision not to indict white New York City police agent Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold-induced death in July of an unarmed African-American street vendor, Eric Garner. Mexican protesters highlighted the parallels with the Mexican killings, which St. Louis University student Ale Vázquez Rubio called "too obvious to ignore." "The connection is having a government that doesn't value brown and black bodies," she said at a protest in St. Louis. "The connection is also in the silencing of a lot of voices." "Our governments are working together to oppress us, so why shouldn't we be working together?" another St. Louis protester asked. "United we stand" and "Somos unidos," the participants chanted, alternating English and Spanish.

In New York, UStired2 was holding its scheduled vigil in Times Square in the evening when thousands of people marched to the site in a spontaneous protest of the Garner decision. The Mexican protesters joined in with the chants of "Hands up, don't shoot," a reference to the Brown shooting. "Do you hear that?" Lovato asked a reporter. "It's like an echo." Lovato noted that USTired2 put together a conference call between the mothers of the missing students and parents of children in Ferguson the evening before. "The most moving moment was when the indigenous mothers who were looking for their sons who [have] been disappeared by the Mexican police were speaking to African-American mothers about what is happening in Ferguson. They were both saying 'I know what you feel, I know what this is like.'" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 3; Univision, Dec. 4; Fox News Latino, Dec. 4; Voices of NY, Dec. 4)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, December 7.

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