By RICARDO CASTILLO
For two consecutive weeks, throngs of angry masked women have staged virulent protests against the Mexico City police. These often violent demonstrations have taken city authorities — and especial women’s lib advocate Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum — by surprise given the unexpected spontaneity from which the protests sprouted. There are, however, motives.
It all started with two incidents of minor girls denouncing police officers for rape. The first alleged rape occurred in a downtown photography museum in which a guard made friends with a girl working for the museum. She claimed he raped her, while the guard, 22, claimed it was consensual sex. The problem is the girl is 16 years old.
That might have passed as just another incident in the big city. But what sent a few dozen women to Reforma Avenue in protest was a second incident, in which four cops on patrol received a call for help from a 17-year-old girl who said several boys were molesting her. She was placed in the patrol car. She later filed suit, alleging the four cops gang raped her.
Worse still, someone from the Citizens Security Secretariat leaked personal data on the girl to a television station in an apparent attempt to discredit her. This led to several dozen young women protesting on Friday, Aug. 16, the city authorities’ lack of concern over these crimes by policemen.
“They do not protect us; they rape us” was the common sign wielded by the first small group of protesters, who in less than an hour were joined by a couple of hundred more girls, many of whom used graffiti and vandalism to show their disgust. The accused policemen were suspended while investigations proceed.
The name Purple Glitter Dust came from this first rebellious protest. The city’s head of Citizens’ Security, Jesús Orta, went to speak to the protesters, who heckled him and, in a rapture of feminist passion, someone threw on him a bag of purple glitter dust — known in Spanish as “diamantina morada” — in a show of lack of respect for the police representative. Obviously, Orta retired from the “dialogue” with his hair painted purple.
Being social media what it is, a beehive of gossip and rapid communications, the second protest on Friday Aug. 21, was better organized and the amount of women, joined this time by men, increased exponentially and virulent violent behavior got out of hand, mostly around the Zona Rosa, or Pink Zone, area.
The demonstrators gathered around Mexico’s most important monument, the Angel of Independence, located on Reforma Boulevard and Florencia Street, where the groups of women blockaded both streets, seriously strangling traffic. They also went about defacing the marble monument with graffiti. The monument has been closed to the public for now, as it is not only the Angel (by the way, a woman), but also the tomb of the men who first rebelled against Spanish rule back in 1810, that was marred. For Mexicans, the Angel is a sacred place and the taggers knew this. They claimed they were seeking attention.
From the Angel of Independence, the mostly masked women rampaged down Reforma Avenue, destroying bus stops and breaking glass windows. They proceeded to Insurgentes Avenue, blockaded traffic again, and then moved south to the Insurgentes subway station, where the facilities of the Citizens Protection Secretariat are located.
At the building, several went inside and started a fire big enough to require firemen squads to put it out. It was then that the building was shielded from the mob by nearly 100 policewomen, who locked arms to prevent further damage to the facility. During the march, several television reporters were hurt including one who was ko’d by a thug accompanying the ladies.
But for the most part, the women requested men supporting their march to keep their distance, with the threat of being sprayed with aerosol paint or with purple glitter dust.
It must be said that at no moment in the two anti-police protest marches was there any police intervention of any kind and, over the weekend, Mayor Sheinbaum held a press conference.
“We are not going to criminalize social demonstrations because we’re bent on advancing in a climate of peace and justice, where women can feel secure,” she said.
“The doors of the government are always open to dialogue. A problem we have is that there are not enough public policies that bring about actions that generate a safe city, a city where women can feel secure when walking down the street, at work and at school. That’s the point where we all have to go to.”
In his Monday, Aug. 20, press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) backed Sheibaum’s position of not using repression in an attempt to control the unleashed violence of the women.
Nevertheless, the outrage over having policemen who have used their position to infringe on women’s rights is out there and, as a pundit put it, “British hooligans couldn’t have done a better job” than the angry masked Mexican women spreading purple glitter dust.
Will there be a third demonstration this week? If there is, definitely authorities will not be taken by surprise. Surely, the best thing they can do now is put the accused cops on trial and, if proven guilty, proceed according to the law.
In the meantime, Mexican society at large is taken aback by the ferocity shown by the demonstrators and many are asking, where are the sweet ladies of yesteryear?