APPO protest deteriorates into violence

BY JOHN GIBLER

The Oaxaca People´s Assembly´s planned 48-hour siege of federal police forces stationed in the main plaza of this state capital turned ugly Saturday afternoon and clashes continued into the night

OAXACA CITY - The Oaxaca People´s Assembly´s planned 48-hour siege of federal police forces stationed in the main plaza of this state capital turned ugly Saturday afternoon and clashes continued into the night.

APPO protesters fired bottle rockets through plastic tubes and lobbed countless rocks at the police lines closing off the Zócalo. The police responded by firing heavy amounts of tear gas.

Several buildings were set ablaze, including the historic Camino Real hotel, although details about damage were sketchy.

A massive APPO demonstration converged on the Zócalo in mid-afternoon and began dispersing at key intersections to encircle the Federal Preventative Police (PFP) troops as part of their symbolic two-day blockade. An estimated 10,000 people were taking part.

But around 4:30 p.m., several PFP officers were seen stealing a cooler of soda from a protester, leading to a volley of rocks being thrown at the police.

The rock throwers advanced down Alcalá toward the police in the Zócalo, taking cover behind impromptu wooden shields. They soon began to fire bottle rockets at the troops as well.

Police fired tear gas in response, and PFP personnel at other corners of the Zócalo followed suit, firing canisters at protesters gathered in front of them.

In the first few minutes of the clash, the police fired a constant stream of tear gas into the streets of the Historic Center. Tourists, local residents and protesters alike ran to get away from the clouds of gas.

On several street corners, families set up first aid stands, offering vinegar and Coca-Cola to ease the burn of the tear gas.

The protesters retreated back up Alcalá, constantly waging battle with the police. By 6:30 p.m. the PFP had ventured out of the Zócalo and began to move into the area around the Santo Domingo Cathedral. The APPO had established a protest encampment there after the PFP took over the Zócalo on Oct. 29.

Federal police beat several protesters as well as passersby as they tried to establish control of Alcalá. One 51-year-old bank employee was caught on the street just as the PFP entered. He tried to take refuge in a house but was struck on the head with a baton as he was entering. "I came from my house," he said with blood dripping down his shirt, "I don´t have anything to do with this stuff."

After nightfall most of the protesters retreated from Alcalá and took up positions along surrounding streets.

Molotov cocktails were tossed at parked cars and buildings, setting fire to a hotel located on the corner of Independencia and Benito Juárez and the Juarez Theatre located opposite El Llano park.

After 8 p.m. gunshots were heard across town, and a group of journalists took refuge in a house after police fired at them.

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