(Update 1: adds injuries pars 1-4, changes headline, minor edits)
Mexico City, Mar 8 (efe-epa).- Clashes between police and activists in Mexico City on Women’s Day have left 81 injured, the Secretariat of Citizen Security (SSC) said Monday.
Of those, 62 were police officers and 19 were civilians, with nine police officers and one civilian transferred to hospital, the SCC’s undersecretary of institutional development, Marcela Figueroa, said at a remote press conference.
The agency will also probe the possible use of tear gas and participation of men that had infiltrated the demonstration.
However, Figueroa, on behalf of the SSC, categorically denied the use of tear gas or another type of irritant substance against protesters, saying there is video evidence the gas “could have come from these groups.”
She added that the march attracted about 20,000 people and was observed by about 1,700 policewomen.
Earlier, demonstrators knocked down part of a metal wall that the government had erected around the National Palace, the residence of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to protect the building from vandalism.
Capital police, with the teams monitoring the protest comprised exclusively of female officers, responded to the protesters’ attempt to advance toward the presidential residence by deploying what some alleged to be tear gas or pepper spray at the point where demonstrators began pounding on the wall, ultimately toppling a portion of it.
Mexico City had awoken to reinforced security, with certain streets and access points blocked off by security forces.
The barrier wall, which was criticized by the movement as a symbol of repression, over the weekend was transformed into a tribute to the victims of femicide, with many people placing flowers and paintings along it.
Lopez Obrador, in the face of the controversy, on Monday accused “conservatives” of being behind the demonstration.
In recent weeks, the president has been harshly criticized by the movement, since his National Renewal Movement (Morena) party is resisting withdrawing the candidacy of Felix Salgado Macedonio for governor of Guerrero state amid accusations of rape and abuse.
Meanwhile, Mexican police reportedly attacked, beat and arrested four photo journalists who were covering the demonstration, one of them from Spain’s international news agency Efe.
The incident occurred around midday inside the Hidalgo metro station in the downtown portion of Mexico City when press photographers were following a march by women during which some of the protesters painted slogans on the inside walls of the metro station.
According to Sashenka Gutierrez, a photo journalist for Efe, dozens of police officers “began attacking the female photographers” and tried to arrest them even though they identified themselves at all times as journalists.
Besides Gutierrez, other photojournalists who were attacked by the police were Gabriela Esquivel, with 24 Horas; Leslie Perez, with El Heraldo de Mexico; and Graciela Lopez, with Cuartoscuro.
The latter two journalists were handcuffed and held up against a wall by police officers.
“They didn’t let us leave, closed off access to the metro and began kicking us, pulled our hair and didn’t acknowledge that we were press. They wanted to take our cameras,” said Gutierrez, who videotaped what was happening.
In addition, the police sprayed fire extinguishers in the area to reduce visibility and began beating the women again.
Two of the journalists were able to get away from the officers with the help of demonstrators who returned to look for them, while the other two remained in the hands of the police until members of the Marabunta Brigade, an NGO that defends the freedom to demonstrate, interceded on their behalf with the officers.