Crisis in Mexico: The Protests for the Missing Forty-Three
Francisco Goldman, The New Yorker, November 12, 2014
There are marches and protests nearly every day in Mexico. Here in Mexico City, protesters gather at a meeting point in the city in the late afternoon or at night, then head down Reforma and through the old center to the Zócalo. Tens of thousands of people march and others line the streets, holding up banners and signs. They count from one to forty-three and cry “Justice!” Last week, I went to two marches, and to a protest at which university students surrounded and blocked access to the Attorney General’s headquarters for six hours. The first march, organized by students, had an especially festive air. The second, the more spontaneously organized #YaMeCansé march, was quieter, yet in some ways more moving, drawing people from all different parts of society, including middle-class families and elderly people. The Mexico City marches have emphasized peaceful protest, but there are moments of violence nevertheless. At the protest outside the Attorney General’s headquarters, a handful of people wearing hoodies, scarves, and the Guy Fawkes masks popularized by Anonymous suddenly appeared out of nowhere and hurled a rock that clanged loudly, almost like a small bomb, off the glass-walled building. Instantly, the journalists in the crowd converged around a figure in a mask who only repeated a few words—“It was the State”—before running off after his companions. Throughout this episode, the students chanted loudly against violence. A group of young women turned to me and complained that now all that would appear on the television news that night would be rock-throwing anarchists or encapuchados, “hooded ones.” As the second march came to an end, half filling the immense Zócalo, another group of encapuchados attacked and set fire to an ancient wooden door at the National Palace.
The next day, witness reports, circulated on social media, claimed that at least some of the encapuchados were infiltrated provocateurs (infiltrados)—a man in a Guy Fawkes mask had been seen slipping behind a line of police who seemed to be shielding him. The mainstream Mexican media focussed so much attention on the burning of the door that many people remarked that they seemed to be equating that crime with the kidnapping of the students; even President Peña Nieto, flying to China, denounced the act of vandalism at a press conference in Alaska.