Protests over the disappearance of 43 college students in Mexico intensified Saturday, as calls grew for President Enrique Peña Nieto to resign, and a group of masked youths set fire to the door of the National Palace – a symbol of federal power equivalent to the White House – following a peaceful demonstration in the capital on Saturday.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched from the attorney generals’ office to the Zocalo, Mexico’s historic downtown plaza, demanding justice in the case of the missing students and an end to the pervasive corruption, impunity and violence that plague many parts of the country.
The protests were largely organized on social media, where expressions of grief, anger and frustration over the case have grown since the government announced it believed the missing students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college were murdered by a drug gang.
The protests were further incited by comments made by Attorney General Jesús Murillo during a press conference on Friday.
Murillo showed video of alleged gang members confessing to having shot the students, burned their bodies and stuffed them into trash bags. He fielded several questions, but then ended the event by saying “Ya me cansé” or “I’ve had enough.” Within hours, the phrase had turned into a trending Twitter hashtag #YaMeCansé, which youths used to express their frustration with the lack of progress in the case, and the government’s inability to address crime and corruption.
By Saturday, the phrase was being held up on signs by protesters in downtown Mexico City, who chanted for both Murillo and president Enrique Peña Nieto to resign.
In this photo, the sign reads” You’re already worn out Murillo.”
The fire at the National Palace was set by a small group of protesters after the main demonstration had concluded. Masked youth spray painted the door with an anarchy sign and rammed it with a street barricade. Some protesters pleaded with the group to refrain from violence, but a cheer went up as the flames were set. They were quickly extinguished.
“We are tired of putting up with a government that is polluted by violence, corruption, everything but the common good,” a protester named Andrea, told Fusion as youth set fire to the door a few feet away. “We’ve put up with a lot of things, and maybe this is the moment in which we’ve decided to say ‘No more’.”
The fire drew criticism from activists who believe it drew attention away from the peaceful protests earlier in the evening. “The history of a few irrational violent people drawing out the riot police with their performance is as old as repression itself,” read one Tweet.
There were also fiery protests in southern Mexico. In the state of Guerrero, normalistas, or students from the same school as the missing youths, set set fire to delivery trucks in front of the state congress in Chilpancingo. The trucks, which belonged to a packaged food company, had been seized by the students during previous protests.
Chilpancingo has seen a series of intense and at times violent protests. Over the last month, activists there have burned government office buildings, sacked supermarkets and set fire to a truck in front of the governor’s mansion after ramming the entrance.
Investigators believe Iguala police handed the missing students over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang on orders of the town’s mayor. The mayor, José Luis Abarca, his wife, and at least 36 police officers have been arrested in connection with the case.
Here are more photos from Saturday’s protest:
The protesters marched from the attorney general’s office to the Zocalo, Mexico City’s historic downtown square. There, they held banners with the faces of the disappeared students, and lay on the ground.
All photos by Encarni Pindado for Fusion.