ricardo dominguez on Sun, 10 Mar 2002 21:21:28 +0100 (CET)

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       A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

MARCH 2002

Large crowds repel police, set police vehicles on fire, and loot
supermarket and big shops. A carnival atmosphere prevails as crowds
control the streets for over 3 hours. Later police enter area, fire tear
gas and make a reported 50 arrests The conflict occurred in the area
around the public market, a poor area where many indigenous people live
and work, and followed a police operation against sellers of pirated
merchandise. On the morning of 8 March police with riot gear cordon off an
area around the public market.

This is an incomplete report written a few hours after the events from eye
witness reports, and info in the local press and radio.  More info
hopefully to follow.  Feel free to circulate but please remove e mail

A major revolt with thousands on the streets engulfed the area around the
public market in San Cristobal de Las Casas on the evening of 7 March.
Large crowds broke into at least 3 big stores, including a supermarket and
department store.  In a festive atmosphere men, women and children
joyfully carted off large amounts of food, drink, clothes and furniture
over a period of over 2 hours.  Onlookers, including women with babies,
elderly people and children watched with interest, and some shouted advice
to the looters about the best route to take to avoid the police.

Two police vehicles were set on fire and burnt in the middle of the
street. The crowd repulsed an attempt by the police to enter the area,
hurling missiles.  A shop was set alight and the fire was still burning at

  From before 7pm till after 10pm thousands were on the streets, and the
police seemed to have little or no presence an no control over the

The conflict reportedly started at 6pm after a police operation to arrest
sellers of pirated CDs etc.. Local newspaper La Foja reports that a police
attempt to enter the area around this time was repulsed by the crowd
throwing missiles.

By 7pm a police vehicle was ablaze in the street by the public market,
hundreds, if not thousands were in the streets and police were not to be
seen.  Around 8pm missiles were seen being hurled, and slightly later a
line of riot police were formed across the road behind Santo Domingo

Around 8pm the crowd began to break into large shops by the market,
breaking plate glass windows and tearing off iron grilles on the
entrances.  Tela de Mexico, Alamanecenes Grandes, and then the supermarket
which is opposite the last named, on a side street by the market, were all
sacked.  Around the same time another fire was burning in the street by
the market, reportedly a second police car ablaze.

Large crowds of men, women and children carried off bags and boxes of food
and groceries, sacks of rice or beans, bottles of wine and spirits,
mattresses, sofas and much more.  Eye witnesses reported a joyful and
excited atmosphere.  There were few vehicles in the area, but taxis and
cars that strayed into the area were allowed to pass unhindered.

Around 10.15pm a large fire was seen burning near the market, reportedly a
shop.  Around 10.- 10.30pm police, some armed and some with riot shields
and helmets, entered the area, charged the crowd and made arrests.  
According to local radio 50 men, women and children were arrested.  La
Foca paper reports the use of ?an excessive use of force? by the police
when making arrests. Police fired tear gas on more than one occasion, and
tear gas swept down nearby streets, causing discomfort to inhabitants of
houses.  Fire fighters entered the area to combat the fires.

By 11.30 pm police appeared to have regained control of the situation,
though there were still crowds in the street, the shop continued to burn
and there were remnants of a fire in the street.  Local radio reports 6
police received hospital treatment.  It is not known how many civilians
were injured by the police violence.

Reports in the media that some of the crowd applauded the entry of the
police into the area were not confirmed by eye witnesses who reported
instead mass participation in looting, and many onlookers observing
without any worries.  The reactions observed to the arrival of the police
were either resistance or flight.

At 9am the next morning, 8 March, an area around the public market was
cordoned off by police with riot gear who were preventing entry by the

More news may follow, and there may be reports on Indymedia Chiapas (this
report is not however from Indymedia Chiapas or any organization)

Note San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, southern Mexico has a
population of over 130,000, many of whom live in poverty, many lack basic
services such as electricity, piped water and drainage in their houses.  
A large proportion of the population are indigenous people, the majority
Tzotziles, and suffer racist discrimination.

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