Fencing erected to protect Mexico’s National Palace ahead of a planned march to mark International Women’s Day has been turned into a memorial.
The names of hundreds of victims of femicides – murders of women because of their gender – have been painted on the metal fencing.
The three-metre-high (9.8ft) barrier was put up to protect the palace “from vandalism”, the government said.
Women’s groups say the government does not do enough to combat femicides.
They also criticised President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for ordering the National Palace and the Palace of Fine Arts to be surrounded by barriers, asking what he as afraid of.
The president responded by saying that the barriers were put up “not out of fear, but to prevent provocations and to protect historic buildings”.
“Last time around, bombs were thrown against this historic building,” he said, referring to protests over the brutal murder of a seven-year-old girl in February 2020 in which slogans were sprayed on to the walls of the National Palace and petrol bombs lobbed against a door.
The president added women had the right to protest, but he said there was “much provocation, many people infiltrate [the protests] and seek to do damage, they use violence as a form of protest and throw Molotov cocktails, and we don’t want anyone to get injured”.
He also said he was “not a male chauvinist”, in response to criticism by women who say he has ignored the problem of violence against women.
Women’s rights activists say they want to draw attention to the hundreds of women that are killed every year in Mexico. Government figures suggest at least 939 women were victims of femicide in 2020.
“We women want to ask for justice and that people understand, and that the president, who lives here, knows that we’re fighting because they are killing us,” one activist told Reuters news agency.
Mexico City officials said thousands of police, including 2,000 female officers, would be deployed across the capital ahead of the planned marches on Monday.
Women’s groups are planning activities across the country. In Ciudad Juárez, a city infamous for the high number of women who have gone missing from there over the years, relatives of the disappeared held up pink crosses with the slogan “Not one more” in protest over the weekend.