Students, faculty, community members rally in solidarity with 43 missing students in Mexico

Ariel D. Hayat/Staff

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On the 104th anniversary of Mexico’s Revolution, hundreds of students, faculty and community members rallied through campus Thursday in solidarity with 43 student-teachers who disappeared in Mexico in late September.

At 11:30 a.m. activists marched from City Hall to Upper Sproul to raise awareness about students at a Mexican teachers college in Ayotzinapa who were reported missing after they were arrested for protesting recent violence in the southern region of Guerrero, Mexico.

The students are believed to have been abducted by police then turned over to a gang that killed them and incinerated their bodies afterward, officials say.

“Taking them from their families just because they want to fight for their education is not right, and we have a responsibility of demanding that free speech be returned to them,” said Francisco Perez, a UC Berkeley freshman who was at the rally.

According to Richard Grijalva, a graduate student in the campus rhetoric department who was at the rally, the Mexican government claimed several times to have found the bodies of the 43 students who disappeared, but DNA tests have proved otherwise.

The rally, which was a part of a bigger movement taking place in several countries, stemmed from frustration regarding issues of corruption in the government as well as numerous disappearances of Mexican civilians over the past decades.

“These 43 students represent all of the other students that have disappeared,” said UC Berkeley senior Joanna Dablantes at the rally.

When the protesters arrived at Upper Sproul, crowds of students congregated to chant and watch musical performances and speeches. Additionally, in a dramatic performance, a group of protesters wore all black and masked their mouths with red bandanas to represent the missing students who were silenced.

Stephanie Sherman, a campus graduate student and a performance organizer, said protesters wanted to draw attention to the injustice in Mexico not only among Mexican Americans and Latinos — who are perhaps more aware of these issues — but also among wider campus and international communities, using UC Berkeley as a platform.

Thursday’s event followed a similar gathering on Sproul Plaza and a teach-in inside Dwinelle Hall on Wednesday, where protesters presented information about the 43 missing students and the drug wars in Mexico. There was also a rally that occurred in October near Sather Gate, which garnered about 70 protesters.

According to Ivonne del Valle, associate professor in the campus department of Spanish and Portuguese, the events that have unraveled in Mexico are related to the billions of dollars the U.S. government is using to fight the drug war and thus related to U.S. policy.

“We need the U.S. population and the Mexican population to know there is a huge problem in Mexico, and it needs to be solved,” del Valle said.

Jane Nho covers crime and courts. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.