Yesterday, on the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, activists across Mexico called for a general strike — an action that is the culmination of weeks of protests following the abduction and likely murder of 43 students from the traditionally left-leaning Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, in the city of Iguala. It is widely believed that the students, who were on their way to protest unequal hiring practices, were intercepted by drug gangs coordinating with the police and state government of Guerrero, the southwest Mexican state where Iguala is located.
Mexican activists were joined yesterday by solidarity protests in the United States and around the word. Under the banner of “Todos Somos Ayotzinapa – Todos Somos Ferguson,” a number of demonstrations in the States were intended to stand with Mexican organizers and the 43 students abducted, along with the U.S. community of Ferguson, Mo. Any day, a grand jury there is expected to decide whether or not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. At a rally in New York’s Union Square last Sunday, protesters held signs in Spanish saying, “Your son could be number 44” — eerily reminiscent of an earlier rallying cry: “I Am Trayvon Martin.” Protesters also called attention to the role of U.S. policy and trade agreements — including the proposed and controversial “Plan Mexico” — in fueling the drug war that has terrorized the country over the last several years, and was accelerated under the presidency of Felipe Calderon, beginning in 2006.
Simultaneous protests for Ayotzinapa were held in France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom and other countries. At the action in New York City, demonstrators gathered for a vigil in Union Square and then moved to the Mexican consulate. Participants were asked to bring flowers and candles, and held up portraits of the missing 43 students. Vigils were also held in Ferguson and around the country this past summer to commemorate Brown and other, inordinately black and brown victims of extra-judicial killings. Groups like the Organization for Black Struggle, Color of Change and many others are continuing to organize against racialized police brutality in the lead-up to the grand jury’s announcement.
Symbolically, demonstrations will be held again in 43 U.S. cities on December 3. Called the #USTired2 Mobilization, the name is a riff on the popular hashtag #YaMeCansé (“I’m Tired Already”), which were the closing words stated by Mexico’s attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, in a press conference about the abductions and ongoing state and gang violence. Fox News reports that over 29,000 people have been disappeared in Mexico since January 2006; as activists have pointed out, Karam isn’t the only one who’s tired.
Combined with recent organizing around police brutality in the United States, the Block the Boat and BDS campaigns, as well as the efforts of Jewish-Americans in #IfNotNow, who are resisting the Israeli occupation, international protests calling attention to the events in Guerrero are part of a now global movement to confront state violence. Demonstrations linking Ferguson to Ayotzinapa indicate an increasing connection on the ground between issues that so often seem disparate.