The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Women in Mexico are protesting femicide. Police have responded with force.

Protests across Mexico City turned violent on International Women's Day on March 8 as demonstrators took to the streets to protest violence against women. (Video: Reuters)

Femicide protests in Mexico City turned violent Monday after women clashed with riot police stationed outside the National Palace, the residence of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Activists say he’s failed to take rampant sexual violence seriously, even as it’s led to the deaths of 10 women a day.

López Obrador, also known by the acronym AMLO, dismissed the protests that coincided with International Women’s Day, arguing they were spurred by his conservative opponents. But the populist president with left-wing origins, who has long had tense relationships with feminist movements, has in recent weeks stoked the anger of many women for his support of a gubernatorial candidate accused of sexual assault, alongside continuing high cases of gender-based violence.

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Ahead of Monday’s planned protest, police set up a barricade around the presidential palace, which a spokesperson described as a “peace wall” to prevent vandalism, the Guardian reported. But protesters said the barrier was symbolic of the president’s refusal to take on the issue, noting that he frequently makes a show of traveling in drug cartel-controlled parts of Mexico but felt unsafe ahead of their protest.

Women instead plastered the barriers with slogans and the names of murdered women. Nearly 1,000 women in Mexico were victims of femicide in 2020, according to an official database, the Guardian reported. Some of the cases have been particularly brutal: In February 2020, 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was stabbed to death, cut up and partially skinned.

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The barrier also became the site of clashes between protesters and police on Monday after some protesters tried to tear parts of it down. Riot police with shields, batons and tear gas responded with force to push the women back.

At least 19 civilians and 62 officers were injured, Marcela Figueroa, an official of the city’s police agency, told the Guardian.

Protests against femicide in Mexico have become increasingly common, as some activists say it has become the only way to get the government’s attention on the issue.