Thursday, May 15, 2008

First Mega March of the Protest Season!

The protest season has begun! Today is teacher's day and instead of holding classes, school is out for the day and the teachers of Section 22 are holding a mega march. The march/protest is an effort to have their demands met by the government. These demands include, the freedom of political prisoners from the conflict in 2006, the cancellation of all pending charges against members of the movement, the punishment of perpetrators of oppression, handing over all schools held by the PRI political party and Section 59 (another teacher's union), and of course the typical demands for salary raises and school food programs. If their demands are not met they will install a protest in the zocalo for 21 days until they are met, which basically means that teachers will camp there for the next 21 days.

If you read my blog in 2006 (thanks!) this is how the whole conflict began and the planton, or sit-in style protest, in the zocalo is a yearly tradition of the teachers. Unfortunately after the 2006 protest devolved into violence (perpetrated by the government) the government is taking no chances, the city is absolutely filled with police, federal, state, and local, to prevent anything similar occurring this year. It literally feels like we are under military occupation and it is especially bad close to my apartment as I live very close to the local police station. Having a lot of police around should make you feel safer I suppose, but here it imparts the exact opposite feeling. Many of the police wear helmets with dark visors so you can't see their faces and the anonymity of it all is rather frightening. And those are the police wearing uniforms! Of course everyone carries huge guns with them too, I would take a picture but you know, don't exactly want to call attention to myself. The university here in the city also had elections for president yesterday so the police were called in to prevent violence over the results. Sounds crazy that there would be violence over the election of a university president but when the law school president was elected there were riots. Go figure.

The march route runs right below my apartment and as I sit on my patio I can hear their protest chants. Many thousands of people are participating but, as in the U.S., exactly how many depends on who is giving the estimate. I believe I read one estimate that 40,000 teachers are expected to attend.

I ran down and grabbed a few pictures of the event and some short video.

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