|English | Español||May 23, 2013 | Issue #67|
Mexico City Police Clash With Neighborhood Opposing Superhighway
Riot Squad Attacks Nonviolent Blockade That Sought to Negotiate with City Government; Four Injured
By Fernando León and Erin Rosa
Photo: DR 2010 Courtesy of Magdalena Contreras Cabrera Facebook Page
At least four people were injured in the skirmish. Edgar Iván, 17, reported being sprayed in the eyes by the police. Two women suffered head wounds. Another man who was unconscious with an unspecified injury was taken to the hospital. At the time of the confrontation there were approximately 300 residents in the intersection, the majority of them women, many who had their children with them.
Residents of La Malinche have halted the government’s work on the superhighway since July, when they organized an indefinite sit-in to keep machines out of the construction zone in their neighborhood. For the last two years years, Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard and his administration have moved forward with plans to build a private toll-fare superhighway from the south of the city to the country’s affluent Santa Fe financial district in the west. As the government began destroying 51 apartment buildings and housing lots in La Malinche over the summer, residents created the Broad Front Against the Western Superhighway and began the sit-in, calling the construction a “death project” to their neighborhood.
Yesterday morning at 8 a.m., neighbors say that 30 workers with the city government snuck into construction areas surrounding the sit-in to begin cleaning up debris from the houses that had already been destroyed. The hired workers were from La Malinche and lived in houses neighboring the sit-in. Residents and the Front claim that some of the workers were drunk. A confrontation ensued, leaving two residents in the city’s Hospital General Xoco and one worker, identified as Jose Luis Raigosa, in jail. “The Broad Front Against the Western Superhighway, a peaceful and nonpartisan citizens movement, is once again beaten at the the permanent sit-in in La Malinche,” said a statement released by the Front after the incident. “Some of [the workers] were drunk or others were on drugs, those who repressed elderly people, women and child, leaving two neighbors with first and second degree injuries.” The remaining workers continued throughout the day.
Photo: D.R. 2010 Fernando León
As the neighbors moved into the street the bells of the Del sagrado corazón de Jesús Catholic church began to ring, calling residents to join in the blockade. By that time the crowd had grown to 70 people. Residents blocked traffic with their bodies. To protect the sit-in, neighbors used parked cars to create a number of organized street blockades around the construction zone.
Once the blockade was in place, members of the Front said they would not leave the intersection until Delegation Chief Eduardo Hernández met with them in person and agreed to stop the construction work that had happened in the morning. “We are here and we will not go until the Delegation Chief or those responsible for this project come and guarantee that they will not violate our rights,” said Rafael Martínez, one of the leaders who helped organize thee Front and the sit-in. “And we want that the workers not re-enter right now or tomorrow.”
Hours passed as the number of people occupying the intersection began to grow. Martinez announced that officials from the Delegation had called to ask if the blockade and Hernández could negotiate over the phone, but the crowed responded with a resounding “No!” The riot police began to form a line around one side of the blockade on Avenida Luis Cabrera at 9:45 pm. On the other side of the police line was Martín Juárez, a representative for the city government, who offered to form a commission of 10 people to go and talk to Hernández about the superhighway at a later time. Again, the crowd responded with a “No!” after Martinez asked for the neighbors’ opinion. All of the actions were decided by an organized assembly of the neighbors. Finally, Martín Juárez said that Hernández would come to negotiate in person, but behind the police line. The blockade agreed to wait for his arrival. However, the promise appeared to be a ruse, as minutes after that at 11:05 p.m. the police attacked the crowd and took the intersection by force.
The city government released a statement yesterday in response to the morning incident stating that “the government reiterates its commitment to maintain a constant channel of communication with the neighbors to get their opinions and address their requests in order to help improve their quality of life.” But with the police attack on the blockade, Mayor Ebrard’s idea of what qualifies as “negotiating” with the residents of La Malinche is clear now. The city government it prepared and willing to use physical force to fight opposition to the superhighway. All of La Malinche saw that yesterday night.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism