The Mexico City-Pachuca highway reopened last night after a 20-hour blockade by México state residents protesting against the excessive use of force by police.
The highway was blocked in both directions at San Juan Ixhuatepec, a neighborhood in the municipality of Tlalnepantla, which borders the capital.
According to Mexico City police chief Raymundo Collins, a conflict between officers and citizens started Sunday night after a gas station employee in the northern Mexico City borough of Gustavo A. Madero reported a robbery.
The man accused of committing the crime fled in a vehicle to San Juan Ixhuatepec and was pursued by Mexico City police.
The suspected criminal was detained after which, according to Collins, “taxi drivers from the state of México and civilians” attacked police in an attempt to free him.
The police chief told a press conference that several officers were injured, including a commander who suffered a fractured jaw.
Residents of San Juan Ixhuatepec accused the police of acting violently during the operation to arrest the man.
Videos circulating on social media show police punching and kicking people on the street and forcibly entering homes. They allegedly broke windows of houses and businesses in the neighborhood and damaged cars as well.
In response to the aggression, San Juan Ixhuatepec residents set alight wood, tires and three police cars on the Mexico City-Pachuca highway starting in the early hours of yesterday morning.
The blockade, in which the newspaper El Universal reported that around 1,000 angry residents participated, was maintained throughout the day.
Two trailers that were prevented from passing were also used to block traffic.
Truck drivers alleged that they were ordered out of their vehicles by protesters, who threatened to beat them and burn their vehicles if they didn’t cooperate.
A group of hooded men also reportedly looted a supermarket and a convenience store in the area. Several businesses closed amid the chaos.
At around 6:30pm, a contingent of Mexico City and Federal Police started an operation to put an end to the blockade.
When the police approached the blocked section of the highway, protesters threw molotov cocktails, rocks and sticks at the officers but were repelled with the use of tear gas.
Police cleared the highway and reopened it to traffic at about 8:00pm. They remained in the area to ensure that residents didn’t attempt to set up a new blockade.
In response to residents’ allegations, Collins wrote on Twitter yesterday that “we will not allow police excesses but nor will we allow the impunity of criminals . . . It is not permissible for civilians to want to free those involved in crimes.”
In turn, San Juan Ixhuatepec residents are demanding that the police chief be dismissed, and questioned why Mexico City police had entered México state.
Mexico City Mayor José Ramón Amieva said on Twitter that the actions of police will be investigated and that sanctions will be imposed.
He also pledged that any victims of police violence would be compensated and guaranteed that a similar incident would not occur again.
Some San Juan Ixhuatepec have filed criminal complaints with México state authorities alleging brutality and excessive use of force on the part of Mexico City police.