MEXICO CITY — An International Women’s Day rally in Mexico on Tuesday drew thousands of protesters, with throngs marching against violence and streaming pass the presidential palace and national monuments in the capital that had been cordoned off with huge metal fences amid fears of unrest.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has been accused of not doing enough to stem the rise in femicides, urged calm while warning that the protests could turn violent.
The Mexico City police said they had seized Molotov cocktails, weapons such as bats and hammers and fireworks from protesters in the afternoon. Local news media reported that two protesters had been injured after swinging at a glass bus stop, which came crashing down on top of them.
The authorities had erected a protective metal barrier around the National Palace, the seat of government where the presidential family lives, and other historic buildings ahead of the protests.
Later Tuesday night, video footage shared online showed a blaze at the door of the government palace in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo León state, after marchers entered the building, according to local news reports. There was no immediate official confirmation of any damage. Anti-riot police officers and firefighters were deployed to the site.
Protesters wrote, “MEXICO FEMICIDE” in towering white letters on the black metal cordon in front of the National Palace, which faces the Zocalo main square, the stage for many major demonstrations.
Last year, women marching on International Women’s Day also clashed with the police at barricades surrounding the National Palace. Protesters attempted to tear down a metal wall installed to protect government property from vandalism, prompting officers to fire pepper spray.
Mexico recorded 969 femicides last year, up slightly from 949 in 2020, according to government figures. Activists say the true figures are most likely much higher, and some estimate that 10 women a day are killed because of their gender.
A group of protesters chanted, “Women united, will never be defeated,” as they arrived near the National Palace on Tuesday, waving white flags. Others, wearing purple bandanas for the region’s feminist movement or green in support of abortion rights, marched down one of Mexico City’s main avenues holding banners and posters with feminist slogans.
Frida Moreno, 21, a student who said that abusive teachers had scarred her upbringing, said she believed she had a duty to march so that other young girls would be spared similar experiences.
“Although I feel privileged because I live in a safe area, no one can guarantee that one day I will not disappear,” said Ms. Moreno, on the verge of tears.
Mr. López Obrador, who appointed women to half his cabinet posts, has rejected claims by activists that he is not interested in tackling femicides, saying that progress has been made to defend women’s rights.
Asked on Tuesday morning if the protests could become violent, as one government official had predicted, the president nodded.
“There is infiltration of the feminist movement in general by conservative groups,” he said, noting that it was wrong “to use violence for political purposes.”
The Mexico City government had said it would deploy dozens of paramedics as well as an all-female police force.