Police officers suspended after firing tear gas at protestors

Aggression against authorities will be responded to in proportion, says police commander

Protests on Sunday, July 19, turn violent. Photo: Facebook
  • Protests on Sunday, July 19, turn violent. Photo: Facebook

Merida, Yucatan — Three protestors were arrested and three policemen were suspended for using tear gas against the crowd on Sunday.

An anti-taxation march aimed at the governor became violent when demonstrators tore down a police barrier in the hotel zone. Authorities said that the use of tear gas was not authorized and that the incident is being investigated internally.

A coalition of political opponents marched on Calle 60 while Yucatan Gov. Mauricio Villa Dosal presented his first “state-of-the-government” speech at the International Convention Center.

But a cloud of irritating tear gas sent protestors in retreat, burning their eyes and throats. Three protestors were reportedly arrested for crossing the police barrier. Videos of men, women and some children affected by the smoke were shared on social networks.

Many of the protestors were organized by political groups such as Voces Unidas, Ciudadanos Unidos and Movimiento Hormiga to protest rising taxes. Some accounts claim that the crowd size topped 1,000 people.

“It hurts so much what he did to us this Sunday … There were women, children, babies and older adults … I hope I never feel that burning sensation in eyes and skin, lack of air from the gas,” said one onlooker on Facebook.

The governor has condemned the action of police and affirmed the rights of protesters to march. The police commander, Luis Felipe Saidén Ojeda, said however that “no aggression against police, Navy, Army or National Guard personnel will be tolerated, and it will be answered with proportional force.”

The march began 9 a.m. at the Remate of the Paseo de Montejo, with the intention of heading up Calle 60 to the convention center. Participants never reached their final destination, cut short at Calle 35, where the conflict turned ugly.

By 2 p.m., the streets were clear with little sign of disorder, and the governor appeared calm as he visited the Teya restaurant at Paseo 60.

Demonstrations are normally peaceful and uneventful in Yucatan. However, in 2011 when the short Prolongacíon tunnel was built to speed traffic through a rotary dubbed “the Burger King circle,” tempers flared and fights broke out.

More recently, a demonstration calling for an end to violence against women and for legalized abortions ended with vandalism that marred a public statue, which has since been restored.

Compiled from local media reports

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