Protesters ransacked and burned government offices Monday in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero state, in an explosion of outrage over the suspected kidnapping and murder of 43 students by corrupt local police.
Anti-government rallies have been held in several Mexican cities since the students’ disappearance Sept. 26 and the subsequent discovery of mass graves outside Iguala, about 120 miles south of Mexico City.
But on Monday, the protests turned violent. After clashing with riot police, about 200 demonstrators stormed an office building in the state capital, toppling and torching vehicles outside.
Television footage showed masked young men and farmers in straw hats smashing windows and setting the building ablaze.
They demanded that the state governor, Ángel Aguirre, release the students or provide answers on their fate within the next 24 hours.
Aguirre seemed to fan public anger further Monday and over the weekend when he told reporters that some of the 28 corpses recovered from clandestine burial sites outside Iguala were not those of the missing students.
“I have confidence that we’ll find [the students] alive,” he said, adding that at least some of the graves were separate victims “of organized crime.”
Federal prosecutors in Mexico City have contradicted Aguirre’s statements and urged patience while forensic tests are conducted to determine the identity of the dead, warning that the process could take weeks, even months.
But Aguirre’s declarations appear to have contributed to the belief among friends and family members of the missing students that they are still alive and the government isn’t doing enough to find them.