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Mexican Federal Police Clash with Protesters Before Concert for Missing Students

Federal officers attempted to prevent the Ayotzinapa students from setting up for a solidarity concert on Sunday, sparking clashes that left 22 people injured, including two parents of the missing.

by Melissa del Pozo and Daniel Hernandez
Dec 15 2014, 4:15pm

Photo by Alejandrino Gonzalez/AP

Mexican federal police officers — allegedly reeking of alcohol — confronted and then attacked a group of students and parents from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in Guerrero as the students prepared for a solidarity concert for their missing classmates in the early hours of Sunday, witnesses and reports said.

The confrontation and injuries in the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo came the same day as the Mexican newsmagazine Proceso published an article it said proved that Mexico's federal police was at least aware of the arrival of the group of Ayotzinapa students who came under attack by local cops in the city of Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26.

The story, published online in abbreviated form, further raised suspicion about the possible direct involvement of Mexican federal and armed forces in the attacks that left at least 6 dead that night and 43 students missing. One of those missing was confirmed dead on December 6 and identified as Alexander Mora, 19, by forensics evidence from a fragment of bone.

In November, VICE News published this report confirming that Mexican troops indeed responded to the Iguala attacks, despite earlier government claims that soldiers at a nearby battalion base in Iguala were not informed as the attacks took place.

One student told VICE News soldiers entered a clinic where he other survivors had sought refuge. Soldiers interrogated them, then told them to stay out of trouble.

There are more than 43 people missing in Guerrero, and Mexico's military may have a role. Read more here.

Ayotzinapa student leader Omar Garcia tweets: "To our community and to the communities of the world, we ask for your intervention and solidarity. This morning the federal police attacked us again."

On Sunday, witnesses and human-rights observers said, a small group of federal officers arrived at "El Caballito," a roundabout in central Chilpancingo, well before dawn, at about 4:20 am, where the students were gathering to set up the concert.

The police attempted to prevent the Ayotzinapa students from erecting barriers for the scheduled solidarity concert featuring some of Mexico's most popular Latin ska and son jarocho bands.

Six normalista students were initially injured as the officers, "smelling of alcohol," threw projectiles and pointed weapons at the Ayotzinapa students, said the Tlachinollan human-rights center in a statement.

At 6 am, more federal officers arrived in several buses, reports said. Police launched tear gas as parents and journalists, as well as sympathetic members of the state teachers union, ran into the narrow streets and steep hillsides of Guerrero's capital to escape the attack.

In retaliation, masked and hooded protesters later returned and set fire to two vehicles before the state security headquarters. Protesters also set fire to a vehicle at "El Caballito." Members of the CETEG teachers union then sieged a hotel where federal police officers were staying, reportedly yanking out three officers and beating them.

In all 22 people were injured in Sunday's clashes, reports said, 14 of them civilians and eight police. Six officers were taken to Mexico City, about three hours north by highway, to treat their injuries. One officer suffered damage to his skull, the federal police reportedly said.

Mexico City police arrested bystanders at random as National Palace door burned. Read more here.

Among the injured are two parents of two of the still-missing students, a sign that the government is delivering only lip-service on the pursuit of justice for the missing and their families, Tlachinollan lawyer Vidulfo Rosales told VICE News.

"It's another example of the state as a whole participating in the repression against the normalistas that has occurred since before the disappearances, but also in actions against the movement that has grown in support" of the missing students, Rosales said.

Ernesto Cruz, a 26-year-old student at the national university in Mexico City, was being treated at a hospital after being hit by a tear-gas canister in the head and mouth, his sister Frida Cruz told VICE News.

"They just arrive and shoot at you and it makes no difference to them if they kill you or injure you," she said. "The tear gas canister hit my brother in the head but he had a helmet on and it bounced off and hit him in the mouth. If he didn't have the helmet on, what would have happened?"

The concert was eventually relocated and held in the community of Tixtla, near the Ayotzinapa Normal School campus, on Sunday afternoon.

Reporter Andalusia Knoll contributed to this story.