Teachers violently removed from Mexico City Zócalo attract mass support

On September 13th, 2013 teachers of the CNTE (National Commission of Education Workers) who have been on a nationwide strike against the privatization of education for nearly two months, were violently evicted from the protest encampment at the nation’s capitol. The teachers have regrouped at a new location and plan to take back their original encampment on the 18th.

13SMX – Desalojo de la CNTE del Zocalo del DF

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After almost a month of maintaining an expanded encampment in the central plaza of Mexico City, holding daily marches, rallies, blockades, and other actions in defense of worker rights and free, public education, the schoolteachers belonging to the National Education Workers Coordinating Group (CNTE) were moved out with extreme violence by federal police in an operation that began a little after 4 o’clock in the afternoon last Friday, September 13. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera had both decided that the teachers would be a disturbance for their September 15-16 festivities when the Cry of Independence is traditionally given in the Zócalo.

In the face of a heavy deployment of 3,600 militarized police and continuous low flights of Blackhawk helicopters overhead, talks were held with the CNTE leadership in which the federal Secretary of State Miguel Osorio Chong, through his Mexico City counterpart Héctor Serrano, gave two ultimatums for the entry of the police: the first at 2 pm and the second at 4 pm.

The majority of the teachers began to leave the plaza that morning, but several groups of Oaxaca’s Section 22 teachers stayed to put up resistance. A little after 4 o’ clock, thousands of federal riot cops under the command of Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, charged into the Zócalo, backed by tanks shooting torrents of water and teargas. They came from Moneda, Guatemala and 5 de Mayo streets to the north of the Zócalo, forcing people to pull back towards the south to 5 de Febrero, 20 de Noviembre and Pino Suárez.

Dozens of teachers and supporters had already put up barricades on these streets and met the police with a hail of rocks, sticks, and other flying objects. Confrontations took place at Izazaga Street, as well as Arcos de Belén, Eje Central, Ayuntamiento, 16 de Septiembre and others.

The repression included encirclements and beatings that resulted in dozens of people wounded and, according to the Cerezo Committee, 31 arrests. All have now gotten out on bail. Nevertheless, there are still dozens of people unaccounted for since September 13, and it’s not yet known whether they simply haven’t reported in or if they’ve been disappeared.

On the 13th, there were teacher marches and actions in a number of other cities, and the support was especially strong in Veracruz and Oaxaca, where the Zócalo was occupied by the FUL-APPO. In Xalapa, Veracruz there was heavy repression and several arrests were made.

As a result of the violent repression in Mexico City, the teachers lost most of the few belongings that they had with them, and are now camped out at the Monument to the Revolution in harsh conditions. There is a call for people to bring them sheets of canvas or plastic, blankets, medicines and other supplies.

The CNTE is now getting reorganized and a number of solidarity actions have been held in their support. A huge march was held on September 15, and more than 100,000 people gathered at the Monument to the Revolution to give the Cry for Independence, more than twice the scant number attending the official festivities.

Several actions are planned for this week, including a march to take back the Zócalo on Wednesday September 18, and work stoppages at the end of the week. There are student strikes at several universities, where centers have been set up to gather supplies for the teachers.