Giovanni López: Mexican protesters clash with Jalisco police over police brutality death

Giovanni López was allegedly arrested by municipal for not wearing a mask and died in custody in early May

Giovanni López: Mexican protesters clash with Jalisco police over police brutality death
Protesters demand justice for Giovanni López - Photo: Carlos Zepeda/EL UNIVERSAL
English 05/06/2020 15:25 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Raúl Torres/EL UNIVERSAL, Notimex, & AP Actualizada 15:50

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As protests rock the United States over allegations of police abuses, anger built in Mexico on Thursday over its own police brutality case: a young man allegedly beaten to death after officers detained him for not wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of protesters marched Thursday evening in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state, to demand justice in the death of Giovanni López. Some broke into the state Capitol and sprayed graffiti on the walls while others later set two police patrol vehicles on fire.

At 17:00, hundreds of young people arrived at downtown Guadalajara. The protest became violent soon and a group of people with their faces covered set two patrols on fire.

After an hour, the protesters broke the main door of the building while police officers inside fired tear gas against the crowd.

Guadalajara authorities informed that 26 people were arrested and made available to the state Attorney General’s Office due to acts of vandalism and aggression against police officers.

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During the protest, a Guadalajara police officer was set on fire after being sprayed with a flammable liquid.

Authorities condemned the attack against police officer Rodolfo Essaú, whose health condition is reported as stable.

The protest to demand justice for Giovanni López’s death ended after three hours when police authorities fired tear gas against the protesters. They also attacked people from media outlets documenting the arrest of some protesters.

An online campaign already in progress calling for justice in López’s death has drawn support from stars like Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro.

Authorities in Jalisco have said that López was detained May 4 in a town near Guadalajara for a misdemeanor equivalent to disturbing the peace or resisting arrest.

A video of his detention shows municipal police wrestling him into a patrol truck as residents argued with officers about excessive use of force and rules requiring face masks, a measure designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Hours later he was taken from his cell for medical treatment and died.

None of the municipal police officers in the town of Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos have been arrested, fired, or charged in the death, which officials have said was the result of beatings.

Jalisco state prosecutor Gerardo Solís said Thursday that the police officers had been placed under investigation.

State Governor Enrique Alfaro called López’s death “an atrocity”  and promised results from the investigation “within hours.”

But the governor also said the incident was “an act of the municipal authorities” and the state wasn’t to blame. “I am also hurt, I am also indignant, I am also enraged that these things happen in Mexico,” Alfaro wrote.

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But the federal Interior Department said in a statement that the tough anti-pandemic measures implemented by Alfaro in Jalisco, including detaining people for violating curfews or not wearing masks, contributed to the problem.

“This event came in the context of the restrictive measures implemented by the governor of Jalisco to fight the pandemic, which included the use of law enforcement forces, and which led to abuses by authorities,” the department said.

Enrique Alfaro also blamed “people” sent by Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who, according to him, infiltrated in Jalisco to cause internal distubances due to the murder of Giovanni López.

“Behind everything that’s happening in Jalisco, there are very precise interests built in Mexico City, from the basements of power, that seek to damage Jalisco; not precisely its government (…) I ask the President of the Republic to tell his people and his party to measure what they’re doing, the damage they’re generating in the country with this environment of confrontation, that it’s them, precisely, who are causing what we’re living,” he said in a video published on his social networks.

Alfaro asserted that the provocateurs were hidden around the government palace and “attacked” the building when the protesters arrived and cause the police to respond.

Despite the images shared on social networks that show how some police officers unfoundedly attacked some of those arrested as well as several protesters, the governor defended the actions of the officers.

“They acted according to the circumstances; they knew how to resist and did not respond to provocations; there was not violent act against the protesters,” he said and insisted that the police officers acted with dignity in front of the provocations.

Alfaro said he has information to prove how millions were paid in social networks to enlarge the case of Giovanni López’s murder and make it appear as though it was the responsibility of the state police and the Jalisco government.

Assistant Interior Secretary Alejandro Encinas wrote that he “condemns acts in which law enforcement has been used to enforce preventative measures against the pandemic, or the arbitrary arrest of people, particularly the most vulnerable among us.”

There have been disputes before about pandemic prevention measures in Mexico, where some towns put up roadblocks or checkpoints to seal themselves off from the outside world, required visitors to isolate or enforced curfews.

Jesús Peña, of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Mexico, said that “we encourage the authorities of Jalisco state to send a clear and unequivocal message that human rights violations will not be tolerated in the enforcement of emergency measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Police brutality has a long history in Mexico that predates the coronavirus pandemic. Police and military personnel have very seldom been punished for excessive use of force or extrajudicial killings.

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