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2 October 2008

On this day in history: Tlatelolco Massacre, 1968

In the months leading up to the start of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, students from around the country gathered in protest as they had done elsewhere in the world that year. The Mexican government responded to these demonstrations with repressive measures: students were subject to indiscriminate arrest and beatings and the army occupied the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Undeterred the students staged their largest demonstration so far at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of the city on 2nd October 1968, ten days before the Games' opening ceremony.

Around fifteen thousand students marched through the city wearing red carnations to protest the military occupation of the university before gathering at the Plaza. As the sun set the military and armed police surrounded the square and opened fire on both demonstrators and bystanders. The indiscriminate killing continued through the night, with nearby residences also subject to attack in house-to-house raids.

Between two- and three-hundred men, women and children died that night at the hands of the authorities. Witnesses claimed that the bodies were later removed in garbage trucks. The government explanation for the massacre was that armed demonstrators had fired down on the police and army from the surrounding buildings first, and that their forces responded in self-defence.

The National Security Archives pages on the George Washington University site include a number of articles about the massacre as well as the text of related document.