Around 40 Georgetown students lay on the ground across Red Square on Monday afternoon to raise awareness about 43 students in Mexico who have been missing since clashes with the police Sept. 26.

“We wanted to break the silence that has come to characterize U.S. response to violence in Mexico,” Citlalli Álvarez (COL ’15), who helped to organize the demonstration, wrote in an email. “We cannot ignore our neighbor to the south. Our destinies are tied, and we cannot continue to conveniently choose when ‘Mexican problems’ concern us.”

According to the BBC, the 43 students, who were from a teacher’s college, went missing in Guerrero, a state in southern Mexico, calling attention to the fact that local police in Mexico are often linked to organized crime. The students had travelled to the nearby town of Iguala to protest against discrimination in the hiring process for teachers. Local police opened fire on the buses of students, who have not yet been found.

Protests in Mexico have called for the return of the missing students. There have also been other protests in the United States, including one at the University of California, Berkeley on Monday. Other protests took more conventional forms than a lay-in.

According to Chris Wager (COL ’17), the lay-in was a symbolic gesture to indicate the importance of pressuring the Mexican and U.S. governments to take action to find the students.

“It was calling for not only the Mexican government to address violence but also for our government in the United States to take a more active approach to dealing with Mexico,” Wager said. “In large part, we’re not really hearing much about what’s going on in Mexico right now. Part of our agenda was to break that silence that’s currently dominating in the United States.”

The lay-in lasted from around12:30 to 1 p.m., when Red Square is host to heavy foot traffic.

“We were there right when people got out of classes so there was a good bit of traffic and everyone going through Red Square at that time had to figure out a way around us,” Wager said. “That called attention to the lay-in and it called attention to the solidarity with the Mexican students,” Wager said.

Ben Cavat (COL ’17) was in Red Square on Monday afternoon and saw the lay-in.

“It worked pretty well,” Cavat wrote in an email. “It would’ve been more successful had there been more people in Red Square but everybody passing by got to see them.”

Students handed out informational fliers to people passing by.

Students began to plan the demonstration late last week. Although it was not organized by a specific student organization, it attracted members of Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Atzlán, the Georgetown University Mexican Student Association, Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, the Georgetown University Solidarity Committee and the Georgetown chapter of the NAACP.

In addition to raising awareness about the missing students, event organizers wanted to draw attention to issues such as migrant rights and police brutality.

“We just wanted to bring attention to the fact that this kind of police brutality is something in Ferguson and in Guerrero in Mexico and all over,” Wager said. “It’s not acceptable, by our standards, and we’re trying to call attention to that.”
Diana Escalante (COL ’16) participated in the lay-in and said that she felt that it made the events in Mexico more accessible to Georgetown students.

“I think for a lot of people here at Georgetown it is easy to be detached from the violence that occurs outside of our country, but it’s events like these that make tragedies abroad more palpable to our student population,” Escalante said.

Wager said that he thought the lay-in was a success.

“I think the group was pretty happy with the lay-in … in terms of raising awareness and breaking the silence on the issue,” Wager said.

Additionally, the lay-in served as a precursor for a larger protest that will take place at the Mexican Consulate this afternoon. Georgetown students were approached by Washington, D.C. community members who organized today’s protest.

“We were trying to raise awareness about another action … at the Meixcan Consulate to really push the Mexican government to address these issues,” Wager said. “All of that was kind of conveyed through what we were doing up there [in Red Square].”

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