Brutal State Violence Against Students in Chiapas Inspires Widespread Protests

Original posted on It’s Going Down.

By Scott Campbell

On Tuesday, May 18, around 120 students from the Mactumactzá Rural Normal School blockaded the Chiapa de Corzo-San Cristóbal highway in Chiapas, Mexico. The students were protesting changes to the admissions process to the school that would disadvantage working class, rural and Indigenous students. Seen as an attempt to change the makeup of the student body or as a step towards closing the school (which has already been closed four times by the Mexican state), students took to the streets, along with others who joined in solidarity.

In response, Chiapas State Police brutally attacked the blockade, firing tear gas and beating students with batons. In total, 95 people were arrested, 74 women and 19 men, all but two of them students. All 95 were moved to the high-security prison of El Amate. During the course of the arrests and transfer, the women students were forced to strip naked and were sexually assaulted by police. All those arrested are facing charges of rioting with a gang enhancement, violent robbery, damages, and attacks on the public peace and the bodily and cultural integrity of the state.

In response to the vicious attacks on the students, solidarity actions occurred and continue to occur across the territory known as Mexico. In Mexico City, the central plaza, or Zócalo, was taken over, with the names of all the detainees being written in the plaza. The national offices of the MORENA party – which holds power at the federal level and in Chiapas – was attacked and graffitied. Protests by normal students in Oaxaca were brutally beaten back by police, while in Teteles, Puebla, two students from the Carmen Serdán Normal School died and three were seriously injured after being hit by a semitruck. The teacher’s union in Chiapas has set up an encampment outside of El Amate prison, demanding the release of the students, while beginning on Tuesday, May 25, an encampment will be set up in the Zócalo of Mexico City, led by the parents of the disappeared normal students of Ayotzinapa.

On Sunday, May 23, the 74 women students were released from prison, though all still face charges. The 19 men – 17 students and two displaced individuals from Chenalhó who were there in solidarity – were ordered to remain imprisoned at a court hearing on May 25. The state’s physical, sexual, and psychological violence against normal school students in Chiapas and elsewhere demonstrate that little has changed with the taking of power of the supposedly “leftist” government of MORENA. Normal schools and their students – who come from working class and Indigenous peoples and are trained specifically to teach in rural, working class, and Indigenous areas – have been under attack for decades. Yet they continue to resist and the solidarity actions throughout Mexico have shown they are not alone in their fight.

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