Arizona protesters demand justice on anniversary for 43 missing Mexican students

Nearly a year after the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, groups on both sides of the border are protesting for justice and demanding answers from the Mexican government.

“We at least want to know where they are buried,” said Alfonso Reyes, a native of Guerrero and member of the Phoenix organization Comites de Defensa del Barrio, or CDB.

“We demand justice.”

CDB is part of Tonatierra, a Phoenix-based group that advocates for the civil rights of indigenous people. The organization began weekly demonstrations outside the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix shortly after the students disappeared.

Many of the CDB and Tonatierra protesters have relatives in Guerrero who asked for support in the fight for justice.

Translation: Impunity affects all of us! Santiago, Chile in solidarity with Ayotzinapa.

“It’s not like something that’s far off,” said Salvador Reza, community organizer for CDB and Tonatierra.

“They’re our families, it’s our families who are affected,” Reza said

CDB and Tonatierra will stage a special protest Saturday on the anniversary of the students’ disappearance. The demonstrators will march from the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix to the Tonatierra headquarters in downtown Phoenix.

Demonstrators burned an effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto outside of the Mexican Consulate in 2014.

It was a year ago Sept. 26 when a group of 100 mostly indigenous students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, clashed with police following a protest.

The confrontation led to dozens of students fleeing the scene, a number of arrests and the deaths of six people. When it was over, 43 students were missing.

According to Mexican authorities, some of the police officers who confronted the students were working with the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel.

The disappearance of the students in Guerrero led to an international outcry and questions about the investigation.

Mexican authorities said police turned the students over to Guerreros Unidos gang members who killed the young men and incinerated their bodies in a garbage dump.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IGIE), appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, began an investigation in November 2014. On Sept. 6 of this year the IGIE stated “it was scientifically impossible for that number of bodies to have been burned in a dumpster in the conditions claimed by the authorities,” according to a press release from Amnesty International.

The IGIE investigation is one of several investigations ordered by Mexico and by the families of the disappeared.

Across Mexico thousands of protesters have taken to the streets this week to remember the students as the one year anniversary of the disappearance nears.

There has been sporadic violence in Guerrero, the students’ home state, where riot police fired tear gas into crowds of protesters for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails.

Translation: From Argentina we support the fight! Solidarity in the form of a mural for the 43!

Messages are spreading on social media to mark the anniversary and the demand justice with Twitter hashtags #Ayotzinapa1Año, #AyotzinapaSomosTodos, #AccionGlobalporAyotzinapa and more.

Mothers of five of the missing students traveled to the United States seeking help and support from Pope Francis during his visit.

President President Peña Nieto met with parents of the missing students, the first meeting since October of last year. The parents began a 43-hour hunger strike on Wednesday.

Human rights organizations called for a thorough investigation into the case and full cooperation from the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“The Ayotzinapa tragedy is one of the worst human rights tragedies in Mexico’s recent history. It has exposed how anyone can be forcibly disappeared into thin air in the country with those in power focused on covering up the traces. Unless President Peña Nieto takes real action now he will continue to be seen around the world as an enabler of horrors,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a press release.

“Now there’s no difference between the narcotraffickers and the Mexican government,” Reza said.

“They are one in the same.”