Amidst a deadly drug war in Juarez, Mexico, a group of college students have emerged from the violence to tell their city that they've had enough.
Spurred on by an October 29 shooting by federal police of a 19-year-old classmate during a peaceful street protest, some 20 students at the Autonomous University of Juarez have formed Asociación Estudiantil Juarense (the Student Association of Juarez).
"Our first goal is to bring justice to José Darío Álvarez [who survived the shooting after emergency surgery], but our second mission is to end the corruption of police and military in the city," a 19-year-old student representative who we will call "Javier" told ABCNews.com.
"A revolution without arms" is their rallying cry, and the group has organized marches in Juarez. A march in early November brought out nearly 200 people to the streets of Juarez.
The students have also garnered support and expressions of solidarity from outside Juarez. Across the border in El Paso, Texas, students and community members have held weekly vigils outside the Mexican Consulate; in Mexico City, students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the country's largest university, have held peaceful marches and protests.
The Juarez "students are quite heroic," said Bruce Bagley, who heads the Latin American affairs department at the University of Miami. "The fact that they are standing up to the military has highlighted the fact that the military in its conduct of the war on drugs in Mexico has actually fallen into numerous human rights violations.
"As student groups, they are not protected by anybody. They better be very careful," continued Bagley. "Mexico has a history of not putting military or police on campuses, and if the students started to target the violence of the drug gangs and the cartels, they would be extraordinarily vulnerable in one of the most violent areas of Mexico."
President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico's drug cartels when he took office in December 2006. He immediately sent thousands of military troops and hundreds of federal police into Mexico's border towns. Calderon's war fueled an already bloody battle between Mexico's largest cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, and Juarez's hometown cartel. Juarez is now the epicenter of violence in Mexico.
According to Bagley, the military and federal police have proven largely ineffective in fighting Calderon's war on drugs in Juarez.
"It is a combination of the size of Juarez, lack of familiarity, lack of good intelligence, and corruption," said Bagley. "All of which is enveloped in the existing reality that Juarez is one of the major crossing points and the money to be made is huge."
In recent years, the border town of 1.3 million people, which reported more than 3,000 homicides in 2010, has been particularly dangerous for young people. On January 31, armed gunmen broke into a high school party, killing 15 students. In an eerily similar attack, gunmen stormed a house party on October 23, killing 14 people between the ages of 14 and 30.
The catalyst for the students' organizing came on October 29, when José Darío Álvarez was shot by Mexican federal police during a peaceful protest for the demilitarization of the city of Juarez.
A sociology major at UACJ, Álvarez was part of a small, masked and unarmed group that had allegedly trailed behind the protest march to spray-paint political slogans on nearby walls.