Justice for the students of Ayotzinapa!

By Miriam X. Padilla

On Thursday, Nov. 20 the Freedom for Nestora Salgado Committee, a student group at The Evergreen State College, joined dozens of organizations in Seattle in a rally to protest the disappearance of 43 students from the Rural Normal School in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Massive student strikes were planned throughout Mexico that day, which marks the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Solidarity actions were planned around the around the United States and other countries.

The recent disappearance fits into a long history of state violence against students activist. Every year since the Tlatelolco massacre (Mexico’s worst massacre), people in Mexico march to remember the students who were killed on Oct. 2, 1968. That year, the Mexican government opened fire on unarmed students, killing many, and the death toll is still unknown today. It has been 46 years, and still questions remain unanswered.

Rural schools provide education in remote parts of Mexico and train future teachers. They are known as escuelas normales, “normal schools,” and the students normalistas. Often, these schools are at the head of protest movements. The normalistas had been protesting increased university fees and government education reforms. The students also have a reputation for radical activism.

The normalistas went missing on Sep. 26 in the town of Iguala. They were last seen being forced into police vehicles. In addition, six students were killed that same day by police who opened fire. Over 70 people have been arrested in connection to this crime including, twenty-two police, and the mayor of Iguala and his wife.

The mayor of Iguala ordered the attack to try to prevent students from disrupting an event that his wife was hosting. Officials are saying that the students were handed over to a drug cartel who killed them, burned their bodies and dumped them by a river.

When Nestora Salgado, coordinator of the self-defense force in Guerrero was arrested and sent to prison, these students took immediate action and organized a protest in which they blocked freeways to demand her release.

Nestora Salgado recorded a statement in solidarity from the maximum security federal prison in Tepic, Nayarit, that has been broadcast over loud-speakers at huge student protests in Mexico City and Guerrero. I quote:

“I plead: stand in unity with the muchachos (students) de Ayotzinapa. Do not leave them alone at this time and don’t let them do as they wish with them. They have always been peaceful. They never took up arms. There is no justification for them to be killed and missing. No reason at all! I stand with you compañeros. I am with you and will always be in spirit. For now, though, I join you with my prayers from this prison”

Tens of thousands of people marched demanding the return of the missing students last Thursday in Mexico City. They burned an effigy of Enrique Pena Nieto while chanting “Ayotzi, vive, la lucha sigue!” (Ayotzi, lives, the fight continues) followed by chants demanding President Enrique Pena Nieto to take action and step down.

The students of Ayotzinapa are an inspiration and Nestora is a local tangible link for us to their struggle for the rights of poor and indigenous Mexicans. Enough of the war on drugs, enough of the fear, enough of police brutality! Lets demand justice for the students and for the release of Nestora and all political prisoners!

The Freedom for Nestora Salgado Committee at Evergreen was formed on Oct. 25, when student activists came together with Nestora’s family, who live in Renton, Washington, and the FreeNestora-Seattle committee. The group meets on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Word of the campaign has spread across the country, with endorsements from over one hundred organizations and prominent individuals.