Thousands of people all over Mexico and the world took to the streets on September 26 to remember 43 students from Ayoztinapa who were disappeared exactly one year ago in a joint effort by Mexican police, government officials and drug cartels.
“Today we can say that we are not alone,” Felipe De La Cruz, the spokesman for the parents of the missing students, told Vice News. “We are going to walk together and we are going to be so organized that there is no army that can stop us.”
In what was dubbed a “National Day of Indignation,” marches and rallies were held in cities throughout Mexico with the largest one taking place in Mexico City. Supporters used the hashtag #DiaDeLaIndignacion on Twitter for the event. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in cities across the United States, Canada, Europe and South America.
Meanwhile, the parents of the missing students attended the march in the capital, Mexico City. Government authorities estimated that 25,000 people marched in the city that day while the New York Times put that number at around 50,000 people. The march, though smaller than the marches that occurred shortly after the disappearances happened last year, illustrated how many people remain angered over what happened to the 43 normalistas. One year later, the parents and friends of the missing are still demanding that they be found and returned alive.
“We will march with energy,” de la Cruz told AFP. “We can’t rest in our search.”
The march began at around noon at Los Pinos, the official residence and office of the Mexican president, and continued down el Paseo de la Reforma until ending at the Zócalo, the city’s main square. Fountains in Mexico City were dyed blood red during the march as a light rain fell throughout the day. Aside from masked protesters breaking some windows and a few scuffles between protesters and police, the march arrived at the Zócalo without incident.
Since the disappearances, the Mexican government’s official story of what happened has been scrutinized and thoroughly discredited by independent investigators. The 43 students, from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, were traveling to a protest on a convoy of buses in Iguala last year when they were kidnapped by local police. Cell phone video of the incident has also emerged. Five people were killed, and the 43 normalistas disappeared without a trace. On January 27, Mexico’s Attorney General, Jesus Murilla Karam, claimed that the local police handed over the 43 students to a local drug gang who then killed them and burned their bodies. The government investigation claims that the local police, working with a drug cartel, mistook the students for a rival drug gang. Earlier this month, on September 6, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a report claiming that the government account of what happened is false and that the disappearances happened with the help of state and federal authorities.
On September 24, Mexican President Peña Nieto met with the parents of the missing students where they handed Nieto a document with eight demands. Nieto said he would take the demands into consideration and promised to create a special prosecutor’s office to investigate the more than 25,000 people who have gone missing in Mexico since 2007. The parents saw this as more of the same foot-dragging and obfuscation by Nieto.
“It’s the same thing over again,” Epifanio Alvarez, one of the parents, told Vice at a press conference after the meeting. “The president received the document we gave him, but he did not sign it. I believe that means he can’t commit.”
On September 27, the day after the big march in Mexico City, the parents of the missing 43, along with hundreds of other people, marched through various sites in Guerrero, Mexico linked to the kidnappings. Each site was adorned with flowers and other memorials before ending in Iguala’s main square. Despite the ever-shrinking chances of getting them back alive, the parents of the missing normalistas vowed that they would not stop until they found out what really happened to their children.
“More than a year later we are still here,” Meliton Ortega, father of one of the 43, told the Associated Press. “We cannot remain silent.”