Rights groups seek investigation of police use guns at Mexican protest

Demonstrators burn documents while vandalizing the Municipal Palace during a protest to demand justice for the murder of Blanca Alejandrina, known as Alexis, which was disbanded by the police with shots into the air to disperse demonstrators who were vandalizing the government premises, in Cancun, Mexico

The United Nations and rights groups have urged an investigation into the use of guns by police in the Mexican city of Cancun this week to disperse a feminist protest over a young woman’s death.

Footage taken by a protester of Monday night’s protest in the tourist hot spot was widely shared on social media. The video shows a group of demonstrators trying to tear down plywood at an office building entrance before volleys of semi-automatic gunfire send them running for cover.

Reuters spoke to a journalist at the protest who described scenes similar to those shown in the video.

Cancun police declined to comment when asked about the use of guns at the protest.

At least two reporters were injured during the protests, said Mexico’s Human Rights Commission. It did not say if the injuries were related to the gunshots.

The commission called for a “prompt” investigation and urged the government not to allow live rounds by police at protests.

It was not immediately clear if the gunshots were live fire, rubber bullets, or blanks during the protest.

Cancun police chief Eduardo Santamaria was sacked on Tuesday, the city’s mayor said on Twitter.

The chief of Quintana Roo state police, Alberto Capella, initially said his officers were not involved in what he described as a “shameful” use of force that would be investigated. Cancun is in Quintana Roo.

Later, state governor, Carlos Joaquin, said Capella had asked to resign and accepted. Capella could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’s Mexico office condemned what it termed “excessive use of force” at the protests and urged an independent investigation.

The interior ministry has also called for an investigation into the “repression and armed aggression.”

The protest was sparked by the death of Bianca “Alexis” Lorenzana, 20, whose body was found mutilated in Cancun over the weekend “with clear traces of violence,” according to media.

A protest movement in Mexico demanding more action against women’s murder has been gaining momentum in recent months, with demonstrators taking over buildings and sometimes clashing with police.

Selene Hidrogo, a journalist covering Monday’s protest for outlet Sipse TVCUN, said the police appeared to target reporters.

“They hit me on the right hand and broke my cellphone,” Hidrogo told Reuters. “The aggression was directly against us, against journalists who were broadcasting the demonstration live.”

Cancun police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Hidrogo’s allegation.

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