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Ferguson demonstrations take aim at police brutality in Mexico

Ferguson demonstrations take aim at police brutality in Mexico

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Some might not see much of a connection between 43 missing Mexican students and Michael Brown.

Try, however, telling that to protesters in St. Louis.

About 30 protesters gathered in front of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday morning to protest alleged police brutality in Ferguson and in Mexico. In the evening, protesters gathered again, this time in front of the Ferguson Police Department, for a candlelight vigil.

“Our governments are working together to oppress us, so why shouldn’t we be working together?” one protester asked.

The protest was part of a nationwide day of demonstrations in more than 40 U.S. cities meant to call attention to the dozens of students abducted in Mexico in September, reportedly at the hands of officers, as well as to demand the end of government funding for the militarization of police.

Protesters in St. Louis used the occasion to draw connections between the missing students from Ayotzinapa in the rural state of Guerrero and the fatal shooting of Brown nearly four months ago.

“We’re here because the parallels between Ayotzinapa and Ferguson are too obvious to ignore,” said Ale Vazquez Rubio, 21, a student at St. Louis University. “The connection is having a government that doesn’t value brown and black bodies. The connection is also in the silencing of a lot of voices.”

Sourik Beltran, 21, a senior at Washington University, said the United States and Mexico face the same predicament.

“People are scared of the people who are supposed to protect them,” Beltran said. “The fear is the same.”

At the candlelight vigil, protesters recited the names of the missing Mexican students, along with the names of African-Americans recently killed by police, such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner. They alternated between English and Spanish chanting, “united we stand” and “somos unidos.”

Protesters said although cultural differences exist between Latinos and African-Americans, all are affected by police brutality. Both African-American and Mexican mothers are losing their children, they said.

Tuesday, protesters participated in a phone call via Skype with Mexican families affected by the abduction. Latino protesters have also signed a letter of solidarity, standing with the Brown family. They have called for the end of what’s known as the Mérida Initiative or Plan Mexico, a U.S. foreign-aid package initiated in 2008 that includes funding for police equipment.

“State violence needs to be named for what it is,” the letter reads. We “demand a stop to Plan Mexico and U.S. ‘drug war’ funding which covers weapons, training and militarization of the Mexican narco-government responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances.”

“We are also clear that increased militarization of local police in the United States allows police to repress and kill black people with impunity.”

Since 2008, the U.S. has given Mexico $1. 2 billion under the initiative, according to Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America.

In Mexico, the mayor of Iguala, 120 miles south of Mexico City, stands accused of colluding with police and a drug gang in the abduction of students from a left-wing teachers’ college with a history of activism. All 43 students who attended the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa remain unaccounted for.

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Lilly Fowler is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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