Report of London ‘Free the Atenco 12’ demo
Freedom and Justice for Atenco” : demonstration at Mexican Embassy in London
Demonstrators calling for freedom for the Atenco prisoners in Mexico
protested for over 3 and a half hours in front of the Mexican Embassy in
London today 29th June. The protest was part of an International Day of
Action, coinciding with the Supreme Court of Justice of the Mexican Nation
meeting to decide the future of 12 political prisoners from the small town
of San Salvador Atenco near Mexico City.
Protestors defied police to take up position directly in front of the
Embassy entrance, refusing police orders to move to the opposite side of
the road. After around 20 minutes the possibility of arrest under the
Public Order Act forced the dozen or so demonstrators to move a few yards
back to a traffic island in the middle of the road.
Nevertheless leafleting continued right in front of the Embassy while
Mexican revolutionary songs blasted out a message of defiance. Certainly
the Embassy authorities were well aware of the protest as their Security
officers were filming and photographing demonstrators.
"The Atenco prisoners have been imprisoned for the crime of standing up
for the poor peasant farmers of the area," said Esther McDonald of the UK
Zapatista Solidarity Network, who organised the protest. "It was the
representatives of the state who committed violent atrocities at Atenco:
Amnesty International has detailed shocking systematic sexual assaults and
rapes by the police on 26 women during and after the police assault on
Atenco in May 2006."
The events of 3rd /4th May 2006 were sparked off when police tried to
arrest peasant farmers selling flowers in the street. When locals went
to the flower-sellers aid and drove off the police, a massive state
force gathered and then invaded Atenco. Police killed two youths,
Alexis Benhumea and Francisco Javier Cortes, and arrested over 200
people. Dozens of homes were invaded without warrants, and hundreds of
people were tear-gassed and beaten. Police subjected 26 women to
serious sexual assaults, including rape, in attacks described by Amnesty
International as "torture".
The UK Zapatista Solidarity Network handed in letters, in both Spanish and
English, for Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza calling for “freedom and
justice for the Atenco 12 and all political prisoners.” Twelve people are
serving sentences of up to 112 years.
People had travelled from round Britain to demand liberty for the
prisoners from the Peoples Front for the Defence of the Land, with
protestors from Devon, Dorset, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich and Sheffield
joining London residents at the Embassy in Saint George Street, central
London. Demonstrators held coloured paper flowers, to reflect the fact
that the state attack began when the people organised to stop the violent
expulsion of flower vendors from a central square in nearby Texcoco.
500 leaflets were distributed to passers-by as demonstrators displayed a
giant banner FREE THE ATENCO PRISONERS.
THE AMBASSADOR’S ROLE
The leaflets (and the letter handed in to the Ambassador) also revealed
the role Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza himself had played in the
“Sr. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, currently Mexican Ambassador to the UK,
was the Federal Secretary of Public Security.. at the time of the assault
on Atenco, which he may have ordered and commanded. In 2009, the same
Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation that is currently deciding the fate
of the 12 prisoners, declared that neither Sr. Medina-Mora (who by now had
been promoted to the position of Attorney General of the Republic) nor the
Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, were in any way
responsible for any of the human rights violations that took place in
Atenco on 3rd and 4th May 2006. Only one of the eleven ministers who made
the decision held Medina-Mora responsible for “failure to monitor the
actions of the security services”. In fact, as Attorney General he failed
to prosecute anyone for the human rights abuses committed by those
One of the demonstrators said: “The prisoners from the Peoples Front for
the Defence of the Land deserve the solidarity of everyone who cares about
justice. Their heroic struggle to successfully stop the construction of a
new airport for Mexico City on their land is an inspiration to all who
believe human needs must come before profit. The state can’t be allowed
to get away with this political persecution.”
In their leaflets and publicity the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network
declared that today's demonstration was also in support of the autonomous
communities under attack in Mexico today, including San Juan Copala in
Oaxaca and the Zapatista communities in Chiapas.
UK Zapatista Solidarity Network http://ukzapatistas.wordpress.com
Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group
London Mexico Solidarity Group