12/23/13 — José Alejandro Bautista Peña, a Mexican activist, actor, and comedian, was sentenced on December 6 to serve five years and nine months in prison for his involvement in this year’s October 2 protest, also known on social media as #2OctMex. Judge Jorge Martínez of the Federal District’s criminal court found Bautista guilty of violence against authorities, disturbing the public peace, property damage, and ties to gang activity, the last charge for which had kept Bautista detained without bail since his October arrest. Bautista will serve his sentence in the North Prison (Reclusorio Norte), where a number of other individuals arrested during the protest are also incarcerated.
The normally peaceful annual October 2 protest commemorates the 1968 massacre of students in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City (Distrito Federal, DF), but this year turned violent as police clashed with civilians. Bautista was attending the protest to document the allegations of police brutality as the events unfolded, with the intention of publicizing it through social media. According to a telephone interview Bautista gave to Proceso on November 26 while awaiting his hearing, he was seized by unidentified civilians and stripped of his camera after recording footage of the protest. While they transferred him to police control, Bautista alleges that he was beaten and they tried to delete his video recordings, which Bautista also claims had footage of violence against journalists and human rights defenders. He was then brought before prosecutors, and sent to trial.
Reports indicate that Bautista’s lawyer, Rubén Díaz, presented a number of convincing arguments before the court in favor of his client’s innocence. For one, he introduced video before Judge Martínez showing that the individuals who detained his client were not only dressed in civilian clothing and not in uniform, but were also not the same police who identified him hours later. This falls in line with the claims that arose after the October 2 protest of police infiltration and instigation into the event’s uprising. Proceso also reports that Bautista’s lawyer argued that the prosecution’s description of his client’s involvement in the protest did not coincide with the details (time, place, actions) of his arrest. In addition, La Jornada writes that Bautista’s defense proved he did not know the individuals with whom he allegedly participated in criminal activity with at the protest, though the judge nevertheless found him guilty of gang involvement. “They way in which they do justice seems like a disease, criminalizing the social leaders” said Bautista, “with a Public Ministry that lends itself to processing innocents and eases the legislative approval of reforms against social protests.” Bautista is expected to appeal the decision.
In addition to his roles as an actor and comedian, Bautista is also known for his social activism, largely getting involved in anti-capitalist stands. He has participated in indigenous rights movements in Mexico City to combat the city’s former mayor, Marcelo Ebrard (2006-2012), on his administration’s major urban renovation projects, specifically the Supervía highway connecting parts of Mexico City. He also protested last March against the Peña Nieto administration and the expansion of Wal-Mart into the municipality of San Juan Teotihuacán, State of Mexico (Estado de México), which is a historical archaeological site home to famous pyramids. “[The government] is stripping the people, robbing them of their lands for already planned real estate businesses,” said Bautista in his interview with Proceso. “Simply put, the capitalistic government wants to imprison me.”