Transgender rights activists stormed the Mexico City Congress on Tuesday to protest National Action Party (PAN) deputy América Rangel, who presented a bill on Feb. 9 seeking to prohibit hormonal treatments and operations for minors.
Videos of the protest circulated on social media, showing demonstrators breaking windows and throwing rocks at the PAN offices. They painted “América Rangel out” across one of the doors. Footage released by the activists showed one of the protesters being beaten by security personnel.
“I am inside Congress, we tried to enter, we got in, they repressed us. I am all beaten up, the congressional security hit me. They won’t let me out, I need help,” said Victoria Sámano, a protester who said she suffered physical attacks.
“For this city, the Deputies are more important than trans people,” she said.
Morena deputies Ana Francis López and Temístocles Villanueva tried to speak to the activists, but their requests were rejected, according to the newspaper La Reforma. Riot police were called to disperse the protest, with clashes between security personnel and activists leaving eight people injured, according to Congressional sources.
Two protesters who managed to enter the lobby were sprayed with fire extinguishers, and groups at the protest claimed on social media that security forces had fired tear gas at them.
Rangel, who is considered part of the PAN’s far-right faction, addressed the events through her Twitter account on Tuesday, calling the protest “unacceptable” and “violent.”
“What happened today in the Mexico City Congress is very serious,” she tweeted, “But those who think that they are going to break me are very wrong.” She used the slogan #ConLosNiñosNo (WithTheChildrenNo).
On Wednesday morning, she took to Twitter again to post a video of herself saying that she was had just filed charges with the federal Attorney General’s Office against the protesters, “who assaulted the Mexico City Congress and tried to attack me.”
Rangel’s proposed legislation seeks jail time for those who carry out gender-affirming surgery or hormonal treatments for minors. She has long expressed opposition to gender-affirming care for children and has also proposed criminalizing abortion, referring to those who disagree as “radicals.”
In addition to protesting Rangel’s proposed legislation, the demonstrators also demanded a repeal of Article 159 of the penal code, which they allege criminalizes people living with HIV.
Article 159 stipulates possible prison time of up to three years for HIV-positive people who do not disclose their status.
“[The repeal] has been stuck in committees for two years; where is the repeal of Article 159?” Alaín Pinzón, the director of the activist group VIHveLibre said.
Morena legislators blamed the PAN for the protest.
“We hold the National Action Party responsible for hate speech, intolerance and anti-rights that several of its members manifest in their legislative work,” Morena deputy Martha Ávila said.
Tuesday’s legislative session was suspended due to the events. Deputies and other legislative staff claimed that a similar event has never before occurred in the local congress.