Standing in front of photos of 43 missing students in the Mexican state of Guerrero, activists and community members gathered across the street from the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles on Wednesday chanting: "Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos."
"They were taken alive, we want them alive."
Immigrant and human rights groups called on people to stand in solidarity with Mexico and the students who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, on Sept. 26, and are presumed to likely be dead.
"This is a neighboring country where violence is being suffered daily," said Odilia Romero, vice coordinator for the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations. "Solidarity on this side of the border is important."
The students from a rural school in Ayotzinapa were last seen being led away by police. Authorities have said they believe the students were taken by police and then turned over to a local drug gang – an order that allegedly came from Jose Luis Abarca, then-mayor of Iguala.
Two weeks ago, investigators recovered garbage bags with dozens of burned human bones, ashes and other remains they said they believe could belong to the missing students. The news was met with an eruption of protests in Mexico and throughout the U.S.
The press conference served as an invitation for a Thursday night rally and vigil being held at the consulate – on a day that marks the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.
Nansi Cisneros, a Los Angeles resident, spoke about her brother's deportation to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, in 2013. Last seen being detained by men in police uniforms in Mexico, he hasn't been heard from, Cisneros said.
"My story is a lot of stories. It's their stories," she said, gesturing to the photos of the missing students. "It's a lot of families in the same situation."
José Luis Ávila Baez, whose wife is being held as a political prisoner in Mexico, asked residents to come together and demand justice.
Organization members who joined Cisneros and Baez also called for candlelight vigils in front of Mexican consulates around the world in solidarity with the estimated 120,000 victims killed and 20,000 who have disappeared during the government's war on drug cartels.
"There's thousands of people who've suffered disappearances and kidnappings in Mexico. It's a lot of people and a lot of pain," said Ruben Tapia, a community journalist who is helping organizers.
"Things can't continue this way."