Relatives, Classmates Seize Government Buildings in Mexico Demanding Students’ Safe Return
Families refuse to believe government claims, continue to hold out hope that leftist students are still alive
Frustrated by the slow pace of the investigation into the disappearance and possible deaths of 43 students, a group of relatives, teachers, and classmates from the leftist teacher college where they were training seized two government buildings in Mexico's Guerrero state on Monday.
Roughly 600 protesters blockaded the Government Palace in Guerrero's capital city, Chilpancingo, by stringing chains around the building and refusing to let anyone enter or leave. According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, the group refused to leave "until their classmates were returned alive" and "fired rockets to make a point to the state officials inside."
Meanwhile, about 100 teachers also held an occupation outside the state legislature building, demanding to speak with lawmakers about the disappearances.
According to the Associated Press, anti-riot police had repelled the teachers, many of whom belong to a prominent teacher's union, from accessing the building. They then headed to the Government Palace where, along with the student demonstrators, "the teachers blockaded the capital building, attacking it with iron bars, rocks and Molotov cocktails," a government spokesperson said.
The demonstrators were there to express their grief over the dozens of classmates and relatives who on September 26 went missing after being shot at by local police in the city of Iguala in southern Guerrero state. The police shooting reportedly killed three and injured 25, while 43 students have not been seen since. According to survivors, the disappeared students were last seen being forced into police vans. Investigators suspect that the detained students "were later handed over to the Guerreros Unidos gang, which took them to an unknown location to kill them," the Latin American Herald Tribune reports. The recent discovery of ten newly unearth mass graves has added to these fears.
In a related incident, a German student studying in Mexico City was shot and wounded by police Sunday evening while traveling outside Chilpancingo after officers had opened fire on his van, reportedly thinking that it carried people related to a nearby police shooting.
The victims were all teachers in training at the Raul Isidro Burgos Ayotzinapa Normal School, an all-male rural teachers college known for its leftist ideology and revolutionary alumni. Vice News journalist Melissa del Pozo, reporting from the school, describes a banner showing the faces of the 43 missing with the words: "You Took Them Alive, Alive We Want Them."
The families of the missing, del Pozo writes, don't believe "a word spoken by the [Guerrero] governor, Angel Aguirre." Nor do they trust the government investigation and lockdown in Iguala. Instead, she writes, the families have hired an independent team of forensics investigators from Argentina, which is collecting DNA samples to compare with data gathered from the bodies being pulled from the graves.
Cornelio Flores, whose 20-year-old son is among the missing, told del Pozo that he received a call from his son, also named Cornelio, the night of September 26.
She writes: "The older Cornelio got the call at 11:30pm that night. At the other end of the line, his son said he was escaping from police that were chasing him and had just killed one of his classmates. Flores told his son to run and hide. He said he still hopes his son will arrive at Ayotzinapa the way he instructed him to do that night. Running."