Teachers and protesters stand near a burning barricade before they are evicted from Zocalo Square by the riot police in Mexico City.
Teachers and protesters stand near a burning barricade before they are evicted from Zocalo Square by the riot police in Mexico City.

Thousands of riot police clashed with teachers protesting at educational reforms, dispersing the crowd with water cannon and tear gas.

Violent clashes took place to end the occupation of Mexico City's Zocalo Square, where furious teachers had set up a large protest camp for many weeks.

Police moved into the area minutes after a deadline set by the government for the teachers to leave the square.

Although many teachers had left following an eviction notice calling for the removal of their camp in time for Independence Day celebrations on Sunday 15 September, some hard-core protestors stayed on.

Helicopters swooped in, as riot police armed with batons and shields charged at the teachers.

Officers had to avoid missiles thrown by protestors, who had barricaded themselves in with makeshift weapons such as broken paving stones, metal pipes, clubs and planks.

However, the striking protestors were overwhelmed by the police. They accused authorities of using excessive force to clear their camp.

Water cannon was used to put out bonfires made from rubbish and remnants of the large tent city where thousands of teachers had been encamped for the last few weeks.

"With a lot of viciousness, they grabbed me and [put me] on the ground, holding my feet. They caused injury on my septum and hit my body," one teacher called Alejandro told Sky News.

The teachers were angry at President Enrique Pena Nieto's reforms to introduce a universal evaluation which would change the way they are hired, evaluated and promoted.

Those who fail evaluations are could be dismissed.

Teachers have marched in the capital over 15 times in the last two months.

Mexico's record on student achievement is one of the worst among countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development despite dedicating more than a fifth of its budget to education.

But teachers argue that the country's educational deficiencies are more closely tied to social inequity than their performance in the classroom.