Mexico City lives amidst street protests

Between 2015 and 2017, there were over 10,000 demonstrations in Mexico City; on average, 270 marches per month
Protesters marching the streets - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
07/02/2018
11:25
Íñigo Arredondo
Mexico City
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Between 2015 and 2017, there were a total of 10, 062 street protests in Mexico City, according to the records of the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of the Interior, a monitoring report of the platform Sin Tráfico (No Traffic), and an analysis made by EL UNIVERSAL.

In 2015, there were a total of 3, 722 demonstrations, being the months of May and June the ones with the greatest number of marches.

In 2016, there were 3,846, focused mainly in July and August; 2017 had a 36% decrease in protests, however.

The main streets and avenues affected by protest marches are, according to the analysis, Paseo de la Reforma and its intersection with the streets Eje 3 Poniente, Florencia, Río Rhín, Insurgentes, Bucareli, Juárez Avenue, and Hidalgo Avenue.

Other locations are Plaza de la Constitución, Donceles, and Eje Central avenue in its intersection with Eje 4 Sur, Obrermo Mundial, and the avenues Juárez and Hidalgo.

The director of Sin Tráfico, Eugenio Riveroll, highlights street marches – which have a start and end point – have an average duration of two and a half hours.

“We're talking about that at least, 10% of the time days of the week; some sections of the Reforma Avenue are being affected. It's a huge impact in terms of quality of life.”

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(Protesters marching in Paseo de la Reforma - Photo: Jorge Serratos/EL UNIVERSAL)

For Patricia Mercado, Ministry of the Interior in Mexico City, 60% of these events are aimed at federal agencies and protesters come from other states.

While each agency provides a daily estimate of actions to be implemented and measures are taken based on that information – such as alerting the population through social networks and media – these precautions can only cover 30% or 40% of what can happen.

2017 registered the highest number of protest marches in Mexico City, due, in part, to the hike in gasoline prices which caused a total of 405 citizen protests. However, despite starting up high, 2017 was the year with the least number of protests. In this regard, Patricia Mercado explains there are several factors to consider:

“After the earthquake, the normal mobilization dwindled considerably. People understood it was a different time, a time for solidarity, of unity. For instance, Farmer's Torch, which calls to many demonstrations, hasn't mobilized people since then.”

For Ms. Mercado, the Law on Mobilization – which requires organizations to provide a notice in advance of any demonstration or march taking place so authorities can take the necessary logistics and security precautions – is another factor that contributed to this decrease.

Nevertheless, for Laura Ballesteros, Deputy Minister of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Mobility, the law has no correlation.

“To give a notification in advance isn't something new, it came from previous regulations and the Law on Mobilization isn't a law against demonstrations, is a progressive law that lays down rights,” she explains.

“There is no relation between the new right of mobilization and the right to protest and freedom of assembly. At the same time we need to ensure the rest of the population has alternative routes because, at least from the perception of Mexico City, marches are a part of everyday life,” claims Ballesteros.

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(Protest against gasoline price hike - Photo: Alejandro Acosta/EL UNIVERSAL)

Rush hours

The hours with the most number of demonstrations are from 11:00 to 17:00, and from 15:00 to 17:00 hours. Sometimes two street protests can take place on the same day, like on January 31, 2018, when Farmer's Movement marched in the morning and the Labor's Nationwide Campaign called for a mobilization in the afternoon.

The weight of a hashtag

Can a hashtag carry more weight than a handful of people blocking a street? For Patricia Mercado, a hashtag doesn't disrupt the rights of other citizens but blocking streets does, and both demand a response.

“We don't need people in the streets to know we have to provide answers,” Patricia says, talking about specific cases of social interest, such as the one of a student who went missing after being arrested by police officers, “This is something we have to address immediately, even if it is of no great interest to social media. We have to solve it.” concluded Mercado.

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