San Miguel De Allende, Gto. [translation] -- The municipal police of San Miguel de Allende arrested 12 activists (10 Mexicans and two foreigners) who had maintained a vigil on Guadalupe Avenue since September 21 to prevent the transplantation of 33 trees, and turned them over to the Public Ministry (MP).
The arrest of environmentalists sparked a protest in the central Jardin among the citizens of this city--designated as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“Respect citizens, nature and those of us who want a better world!” “Free the detainees!” and “(Luis Alberto) Villarreal Resign!” were some of the slogans on placards carried by the protesters.
At 9 pm on Sunday, staff of the Aegean company began work to transplant the trees, as part of a remodeling work, and the activists tried to prevent it. Workers arrived from the town hall secretariat to talk with environmentalists, but there was no agreement.
At 1:30 in the morning 25 police officers arrived and arrested the 12 protesters, who were not fined and will have to spend 36 hours in the municipal jail.
The government of San Miguel de Allende, led by Luis Alberto Villarreal García of PAN, issued a statement in which the detainees are accused of assaulting the employees of the Aegean company.
According to the local government’s accusations, “some workers received stubs, kicks and threats from alleged protesters; some even showed a gun. An operator of one of the machines decided to withdraw from the work for protection.”
The secretary of the city council, Gonzalo González, explained that those arrested will spend 36 hours in the separations for physically and verbally assaulting the agents and preventing the execution of a public work.
He said that they are submiting the complaint before the MP, and will attach videos and photos. The official revealed that a German and a Colombian were turned over to the National Migration Institute (INM).
The municipal government asserted that the activists committed the crime of disobedience, resistance and demand of individuals, typified in article 259 of the Criminal Code.
Said article stipulates that whoever, through physical or moral violence, requires an authority to execute or omit an official act, whether or not within its powers, will face from two to six years in prison and from 20 to 60 fine days.
The legal advisor of the Save 41 Trees movement, Gustavo Lozano, accused the administration of Villarreal García of criminalizing the peaceful protest of San Miguel environmentalists.
“It is striking that they say they were kicked, stoned and some showed a gun. This is criminalizing social protest. When a government wants to make a project despite citizen resistance, it tends to prosecute the disagreement,” he said.
He considered that the purpose is get the protesters to stop protecting trees because the legal defense of detainees would be more urgent.
Lozano said that the arbitrary arrest of environmentalists has already been denounced before the Human Rights Office of the State of Guanajuato.
The lawyer said that if the authority considers that they committed a crime, they should have immediately turned them over to the MP and not keep them locked up.
On its Facebook page, the Save 41 Trees movement (named because they were originally going to transplant 41 trees) stated that “there were no weapons, stones, insults or physical contact on our part at any time.”
“It is clear to us that the government needs to lie to justify its actions against all these people, but we are many,” they said.