SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 03, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):National Autonomous University of Mexico

Region & Country:Americas | Mexico

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 3, 2018, students holding a peaceful protest at the National Autonomous University of Mexico were violently attacked by a large group of students and other off-campus individuals.

Students from UNAM’s Mexico City campus were reportedly protesting the recent murder of a female student, demanding that the university address gang violence on campus. During the protest, as many as eighteen armed assailants, some reportedly wielding knives and molotov cocktails, arrived on campus by bus and their own vehicles and attacked the students as they protested outside the rectory. At least two student protesters were reportedly seriously injured in the attack.

Immediately following the attack, faculties across UNAM reportedly went on strike in protest of the violent attack, demanding that the university security coordinator resign.

State authorities reportedly carried out a number of arrests in connection with the attack, while university officials expelled at least twenty-two students suspected of carrying out the attacks. Reports suggest that the assailants are members of “porros,” groups of students at Mexican universities who are essentially contracted to advance the interests of off-campus groups, including criminal entities.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent attacks on peaceful student expression. State authorities have a responsibility to maintain security and order on campus, to investigate and hold perpetrators of attacks responsible, and to protect the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on student expression on campus undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.