Police in Tala, Jalisco, on Sunday handcuffed, shoved and berated a man who says he went out to get food for his family with a mask in his hands rather than on his face, according to a video on social media.
When the video of the encounter, recorded by disgusted nearby merchants, reached the social media feed of Oscar-winning film director Guillermo del Toro, the Jalisco filmmaker brought it to the attention of Governor Enrique Alfaro Ramírez in a scathing pair of tweets Wednesday afternoon.
“Enrique Alfaro, maybe I don’t understand things, but this is a time that requires compassion and judgment, and not this,” del Toro wrote. His tweet initially drew more than 9,600 reactions, as well as 4,400 retweets. “Definition of brutality: excessive and irrational action without compassion. This is a citizen in the middle of a pandemic. Not a criminal,” the filmmaker also tweeted.
The arrest comes after Alfaro issued a stern warning to the 8.25 million residents of the western Mexican state last Sunday: stay home, practice social distancing and wear masks. Those who refuse will face consequences, including fines. “Everyone’s lives are at stake,” he said at the time, describing those who ignored the measures as “assholes.”
During Sunday’s video, before the man was eventually taken away under arrest, he argued with uniformed police officers. “I just came to buy my food and leave, why do you want to take me?” he protests. “I didn’t have a face mask, and they already gave me one.”
“Vine a comprar mi comida. ¿Por qué me quieres llevar?”, expresa tapatío luego de que policías de Alfaro lo detuvieran arbitrariamente
— Revolución 3.0 (@Revolucion3_0) April 29, 2020
Police also scolded the merchant filming the encounter, who was wearing a mask, for not enforcing coronavirus guidelines among his customers.
Alfaro, for his part, responded to del Toro’s tweet by claiming the officers involved were local police from Tala, not state authorities.
Alfaro said he had already spoken with Tala’s mayor, and was working with him to investigate the incident and make sure it does not happen again.
“The rules we put in place need to be followed, but that does not mean that we will tolerate abuses by any authority,” Alfaro said on his Twitter account.
Del Toro, who left Mexico after his father was kidnapped in 1997, has been critical of government officials before.
In 2014, he and fellow directors Alfonso and Jonas Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu read a statement at a Museum of Modern Art film benefit in New York denouncing the Mexican government’s handling of the disappearance of 43 student protesters.
The following year, del Toro used his platform at the Guadalajara Film Fest to speak out against drug violence in the country. “It’s one thing to talk about a social crisis, but another to talk about absolute social decay,” he said.
As of Thursday morning, the two-minute video of the incident Tala had been viewed more than 340,000 times on social media.