Armed with machetes, incendiary bombs, picks and shovels, hundreds of protesters and relatives of the 43 students missing since mid-September in Iguala, Mexico occupied Acapulco’s International Airport Monday afternoon to demand that more be done to find the remains of the unaccounted youth.
Dozens of buses carrying the protesters blocked access to the airport for more than three hours, and tourists and travelers were seen walking on the highways with their luggage in hand. The entrances to the airport remained closed.
The demonstration started peacefully, but turned violent soon afterward.
A local television station showed a group of masked protesters clashing with riot police who had tried to block their way to the airport. A public security official quoted by the Agence France-Presse said 11 officers were injured.
Iguala is a historic city in the Mexican state of Guerrero in southwestern Mexico, about 130 miles away from the resort town of Acapulco.
"We will shut down the airport for three hours. We intend to do so peacefully and in order. It will be symbolic," said Felipe de la Cruz, father of one of the missing and a spokesperson for the protesters.
"Flights are getting in, but won’t depart in the next three hours,” he said around 3 p.m. Eastern time. “With 43 people missing, nothing will happen by having to wait an hour at the airport," he added.
Cruz justified the presence of machetes and Molotov cocktails saying they have to protect the identity of the surviving students who are now demonstrating. "The weapons are to defend ourselves from those who killed 43 students, we are afraid of the state's repression.”
Last week Mexican authorities provided evidence that the students were killed and burned. However, the families have refused to accept that the charred remains found in several bags in a river near the site of the disappearance are those of the students. They have not been officially declared as such, either.
Guerrero Governor Rogelio Ortega said in a news conference before the protest that he will not stop the rally.
"I'd rather resign," he said.
Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam told Televisa Monday that the students continue to be in the "missing" category, that "all evidence and clues are being investigated" and that the state "is interested in the presence in Mexico the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in line with the parents’ demands."
Murillo also said that the human remains found in the bags have not yet left the country. They are expected to be sent to the University of Innsbruck in Austria for DNA tests.
He added there are arrest warrants against "12 or 13 perpetrators who are still at large" and said the sadistic account given by three of the alleged perpetrators last week was credible.
The mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, who are now in custody and according to Murillo were who gave the order to annihilate the students, are exercising their right not to testify.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.