Thousands march against Trump in Mexico City: 'Pay for your own wall!'

Thousands of demonstrators waving Mexican flags and hoisting signs denouncing President Trump marched through central Mexico City on Sunday, the largest mobilization so far here against what many label an anti-Mexican administration in the White House.

“We are not against the American people. This is about Trump, who is spreading hate and division,” said Maria Garcia, a former resident of Chicago who carried an unflattering, papier-mache likeness of the U.S. president as she marched through the Mexican capital.

“The United States and Mexico are natural friends and allies, but Trump is destroying this,” added Garcia, who later publicly burned the Trump effigy.

More than 20,000 people attended the march, according to an official city estimate. The turnout was relatively modest in a city that regularly  hosts massive demonstrations.

Organizers dubbed the event “Vibra Mexico” (roughly, Mexican vibe), and mounted an aggressive social media campaign encouraging people to attend.

While Trump was the main target, many participants also carried signs and chanted slogans against Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Coordinated protest marches also took place Sunday in other Mexican cities, including Tijuana, Monterrey, Merida and Morelia.

Protesters in Mexico City hoisted signs declaring, “Respect Mexico” and “We are all Mexico” as they marched down Paseo de la Reforma, the capital’s elegant, tree-lined main street.

Police turned out in force to maintain security, and a helicopter hovered overhead, but no violence was reported.

The march stretched about a mile and a half to the Angel of Independence, a landmark that is a common site of protests.

The turnout and emotion were indicative of the widespread indignation that Trump’s various policies on immigration and trade — widely viewed here as anti-Mexican —  have sparked south of the border.

“Trump, pay for your own wall!” declared one sign in English, a reference to the president’s plan to build a new barrier along the almost 2,000-mile frontier between the two nations.

The proposal has been a flashpoint of criticism here. The Mexican government has rebuffed Trump’s insistence that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Miguel Posternak, 58, carried a sign in English denouncing Trump’s comments during the presidential campaign disparaging Mexican nationals in the United States.

“Undocumented Mexican immigrants are not criminals or rapists,” the sign read. “They are hardworking, friendly people. Just ask any American employer and you’ll see.”

Another sign declared: “Thanks, Trump, for uniting us.”

Along with the wall, Trump’s plans to step up deportations, slap a tariff on products imported to the United States and renegotiate trade deals  have all raised ire in Mexico and raised fears of an economic collapse. The Mexican peso has been steadily declining in value against the U.S. dollar since Trump began rising in U.S. electoral polls late last year.

“I came here on my birthday because Trump is trying to divide people, and I’m against that,” said Arleen Ledezma, 31, a Mexican American hairdresser from Tucson who carried a sign declaring in Spanish: “My nationality is the United States but my roots are Mexican.” She said she flew down for the day to show solidarity.

From a loudspeaker, an activist declared: “Donald Trump must respect the dignity of Mexico!”

The march was one of two major anti-Trump events Sunday.

Some stayed away from the demonstrations, viewing them as too supportive of Peña Nieto, who is suffering from near record-low approval ratings amid concerns about corruption, violence and rising prices.

“This is in no means an event to back the president,” said Manuel Cevallos, 62, a teacher who said he lived for two decades in Southern California, and was attending the rally. “We need a real president who defends the rights of Mexicans, who stands up to Trump.”

Peña Nieto, who did not attend the march, has spoken repeatedly of “unity” in recent days. He and other Mexican leaders have vowed to help deported compatriots returning to Mexico and to bolster aid for Mexican immigrants in the United States. But there is little Mexican officials can do to curb Trump’s plans to build a wall and accelerate deportations.

While Trump was widely assailed, many protesters made the point that their gripe was not with the citizens of the United States.

“I admire the American people very much,” said Antonio Aguilera, 65, who carried a sign assailing both Trump and the Mexican president. “The problem in Mexico is that our leaders have robbed so much that we now have little left to fight back against Trump and his policies.”

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City bureau and special correspondent Laura Tillman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

2:50 P.M.: Updates throughout with details, quotes from march.

This article was originally posted at 11:15 a.m.

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