Oaxaca: “mega-march” defies federal police

Tens of thousands of protesters from across Mexico have gathered in Oaxaca City Nov. 5 to defy federal police control of the streets in what organizers are calling a “mega-march.” Cars and buses from throughout the country arrived at Oaxaca‘s state university, which is controlled by protesters and is serving as a staging ground. Soldiers searched cars for weapons as they arrived on the outskirts of the city, and federal police unrolled razor wire in the city center. But under Mexican law the police cannot enter the university campus without the permission of the rector. Oaxaca rector Francisco Martinez has said police are not welcome.

Despite the heavy federal police presence, the plainclothes paramilitary gunmen known as “porros” are still active in the city. One youth was wounded when porros opened fire on a barricade near the campus early on Nov. 5 morning. NYC Indymedia identified him as Marcos Manuel Sanchez Martinez, and said he was hit in the thorax.

In the city center that afternoon, masked federal police clutched automatic rifles on rooftops as more than 20,000 marched on the police encampment in the main plaza, yelling, “Get out federal police!”

Protest leader Flavio Sosa, wanted by state police on conspiracy and riot charges, said the protesters won’t look for a fight, but fears police or porros may provoke one. “Our enemies carry out murders, persecution, and arbitrary arrests,” Sosa told the Associated Press. “We have the right to defend ourselves.”

Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez called for an end to the conflict as he celebrated mass at the cathedral overlooking the main plaza, or zocalo, where the federal police are stationed. “Each person should be committed to bringing about peace,” he said. (Reuters, AP, NYC Indymedia, Nov. 5)

This is the sixth “mega-march” since the Oaxaca strife began with a teachers’ strike in May. The largest, on June 16, brought out 400,000 by high estimates. (Narco News, June 17)

See our last posts on Mexico and the Oaxaca crisis.