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Mexico City police evict Indigenous activists

Police can clearly be seen using force on elderly women and adolescent girls in a video of the operation, which was conducted in the middle of the night.

Paramedics tend to the wounded after a midnight raid on occupied government offices in Mexico City on Oct. 16, 2023. [Cody Copeland/Courthouse News]

Cody Copeland

October 16, 2023

MEXICO CITY (CN) — A clash between police and Indigenous activists occupying government offices in Mexico City late Sunday night left 10 people wounded, including teenage girls as young as 13, according to organizers of the occupying group.

“These acts of discrimination and racism against Indigenous communities contravene the international treaties and agreements that Mexico has signed on Indigenous issues,” said Diego García, a spokesperson for the activists, at a press conference outside the occupied offices on Monday.

The activists — many of them displaced members of the indigenous Otomi population — have occupied the offices of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples for three years to demand their constitutional right to decent affordable housing. They celebrated the third anniversary of the taking of the offices last Thursday.

Among the injured were a 13-year-old girl who fainted after being kicked in the head by three officers, a 17-year-old girl who lost mobility in one leg after being attacked by a group of five officers, senior citizens and journalists present to document the operation, García said.

Unidentified gunmen arrived on motorcycles at around 3 a.m. and fired upon activists, but no one was injured from the gunshots, he said. He displayed the empty cartridges at the conference.

A video of the clash posted to Facebook shows activists using long pipes to fend off police in riot gear. Police can clearly be seen using physical force on elderly women and young girls.

“Acts such as these put at risk not only the lives of members of the community, but also those of anyone else who may be present,” said Filiberto Margarito Juan, a councilman with the National Indigenous Congress and representative of the Otomi community.

In a concurrent press conference, city officials attempted to explain that the police were there only to clear the roadway, which activists have blocked since Oct. 11.

“There have been versions that state that the action that was taken was one to try and clear the institute facilities of the people who have been there for three years now,” said Mexico City Interior Secretary Ricardo Ruiz Suárez. “It is absolutely false that this was the intention of the action.”

Ruiz said that such an eviction would take a federal court order, since the offices belonged to a federal institute.

“We as the city government do not have a direct administrative recourse to retake the facilities,” he said, emphasizing that the operation was to open up a major traffic artery that leads to an important hospital in the neighborhood.

Organizers, however, weren’t buying that explanation.

“The officers came all the way up to the doors of the House of the People,” said García.

After taking the offices in October 2020, activists renamed the space the House of Indigenous Communities and Peoples: Samir Flores Soberanes, in honor of a water rights activist from Morelos who was murdered in 2019.

“If their goal had been to clear the road, they wouldn’t have come all the way up to the door,” García said. “In the face of this threat, the activists defended themselves and began to force them to withdraw.”

He and the other activists called on the government to expropriate the occupied offices and turn them into affordable housing for the 30 families living there.

They had tried this tactic with an occupied abandoned building elsewhere in the city, but were unable to after police forced them out of that structure.

“We demand that they begin the work of expropriating this building, since they say they can’t with the other one because no one is inside it,” García said. “They forget that the police beat us and kicked us out of that one.”

© 2023 Courthouse News Service

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