Protesters demand change at Mexican consulate of Los Angeles

Dancers wearing massive feathered headdresses flooded the sidewalks as twilight settled on the downtown Los Angeles skyline behind them. They chanted to the methodical beat of drums, enticing others to rush the streets amidst traffic to join them. The dance company and nearly 20 other collectives gathered outside the Mexican Consulate in solidarity for the families of 43 missing students in Mexico on November 20.

This demonstration was one of many occurring across the United States and Mexico, marking an international day of protest against government corruption.

Protestors demanded justice for 43 abducted students from the rural city of Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero, last seen on September 26. Nearly two months after their disappearance, most are presumed to have been killed by a local drug gang in league with the local government.

Speakers took the stage under a monument near the consulate honoring the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, a revolt also started by student demonstrations, and an apt symbol of the underlying desire for revolution present in the communities of Mexico today.

Words chanted in front of the monument read “Fue el Estado! Fue el Estado!”

Protestors chanted this phrase throughout the night, prompting passing cars to honk. Translated, the mantra means, “It was the state”.

Presenters ranged from young children and elderly women, to professors and political activists. The crowd formed a massive semi-circle around the monument steps, lighting candles in the shape of “43”. Signs with the name and picture of each victim lined the sidewalk.

Protestors overtook the street in front of the consulate under the cautious eye of the police. Despite the somber occasion, families gathered to enjoy dancers and musicians scattered throughout the crowd.

A sense of unity overtook the crowd. The only dividing point amongst the peaceful protesters was how changes must be made.

The socialist group, Worker’s Voice, claimed a workers’ revolution was the key to end oppression and exploitation by government. Activist and former SMC student, Samaira Gomez, pointed out the stigma inherent with socialist ideas in the United States.

“We want to build solidarity and build unity across our borders because we see our fight as one fight,” said Gomez, “It is hard because we don’t have a culture that is revolutionary.”

Other groups such as the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education focused on fighting the corporate takeover of education. In recent years, Mexico has defunded public education, decreasing the quality of learning and promoting privatization of schools. U.S section coordinator Rosemary Lee claimed that injustice in government and political corruption must be stopped in order to promote the well-being of children in public schools.

These issues have plagued Mexico for years, calling into question the likelihood of real change. Many young citizens and activists have taken action, but a large portion of the Mexican population remains uninvolved.

Former SMC student and activist for Frente de Resistencia Nansi Cisneros, who's brother was kidnapped in Mexico last year, asserted that the recent abductions sparked enough momentum for change in Mexican government. She cited the need for honest leaders willing to fight corruption.

“If it happens, it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to hard,” said Cisneros, “It’s got to be someone who’s not in it for the money, someone who cares.”

The recent discovery of mass graves outside Iguala has strengthened peoples’ conviction that this was an act of political corruption and murder. Mexican authorities peg former Iguala mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, as the main conspirators behind the abduction. The students had planned to protest Pineda’s public works conference, specifically egregious school tuition increases, the day of the abduction.

After the discovery of the mass graves on October 5, police arrested participating gang members while the mayor and his wife fled. Abarca and Pineda were captured November 3, and remain in custody pending charges.

Solidarity for the students’ families united a diverse array of political organizations and activists at the protest last Thursday. Despite their divergent ideologies, they all agreed that the injustice and corruption infecting their country.

NewsKira VandenbrandeComment