On Thursday evening some 300 people held a peaceful, candlelight vigil against police brutality and racism in the United States.
Friday, however, was a different story, when the tone of a second, separate protest took a violent turn and degenerated into a riot involving injuries, property damage and the deployment of some 500 police officers clad in riot gear.
A Facebook live video posted midday Friday showed a small group of people pasting sheets of paper with the names of 420 victims of police brutality in the United States on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Embassy.
Messages directed at U.S. President Donald Trump, calling him a racist and a pedophile among other things, were posted to the steel barriers that have been erected outside the embassy.
The group also posted several messages decrying the death of Giovanni López, who died after being arrested by police in Jalisco on May 4, apparently for not wearing a face mask.
As the afternoon progressed, the initial group of about 15 was joined by others wearing hoods and armed with Molotov cocktails, sticks, metal tubes and rocks.
They began banging on the embassy’s protective barrier and were soon joined by a larger group of people — described as anarchists by Mexico City police — as the violence escalated. The crowd hurled rocks, firecrackers and paint in the direction of the embassy until riot police were called out to disperse the crowd with what appeared to be tear gas.
From there, things spiraled out of control.
The group, now numbering around 100, left the embassy and headed toward Casa Jalisco, that state’s headquarters in Mexico City, shattering windows and vandalizing homes along the route, their focus now firmly on the death of López.
The protesters, many wearing helmets, carried anarchist flags and a large banner emblazoned with “Antifa,” for anti-fascist.
They were met by some 500 riot police as the protesters threw Molotov cocktails, tree branches and other potentially lethal projectiles in the direction of Casa Jalisco, shouting “Murderers!” as they clashed with police.
Six hours after the protest began, authorities managed to disperse the crowd.
More than 50 businesses and 60 apartment buildings along Paseo de la Reforma, Mariano Escobedo and Campos Elíseos were damaged.
Four journalists and six police officers reported injuries, and a 16-year-old girl was allegedly beaten by police.
Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum acknowledged that some officers acted inappropriately during the protest and strongly condemned any act of police brutality.
“I gave a clear and precise instruction to avoid provocation,” she stated on social media and specified that her orders were not fully obeyed.
“For my government, this is unacceptable. For this reason, I am requesting the Attorney General’s Office and the Mexico City Human Rights Commission to open an investigation, identify and punish those responsible, as well as their chain of command, regardless of rank,” she said.