Creepy clowns: Professionals condemn scary sightings craze
Hundreds of professional Latin American clowns have condemned the recent global "creepy clown" craze, saying it is harming their image.
The clowns, attending an annual convention in Mexico City, chanted: "We are clowns, not killers".
The craze, in which people dress up as clowns and scare people, spread quickly with the help of social media.
Scary clowns were first reported in the US in August and quickly spread to the UK, Australia and Brazil.
Last week, five teenagers dressed as clowns were detained in the Mexican city of Mexicali after frightening people with bats. Clown sightings were also reported in the city of Queretaro.
The hysteria over the past weeks has prompted police in several countries to increase patrols outside schools, and in some areas fancy dress shops were asked to remove clown masks from the shelves.
The craze also saw fast food giant McDonald's limiting the public appearances of its well-known clown mascot, Ronald McDonald.
But those who earn a living from the profession are fighting back, hoping to reverse the negativity that has cast a shadow on their trade.
Hoi Hoi, a professional clown at the Mexico city convention, told Reuters: "There is more good than evil. Clowns show we are good people and we do our work in the best possible way."
An Argentine clown who went by the name Fluorescent Plug said: "I don't see anything funny about it."
Others were concerned about the safety of professional clowns. Tomas Morales, president of the Brotherhood of Latino Clowns, said: "If [people] see in the news that we are evil, they can take a machete or a gun and kill a clown."
Clowns deny murdering drug dealer
Latin American clowns were dogged by controversy in 2013, when they gathered at that year's convention to deny allegations that one of their colleagues was responsible for the killing of a former Mexican drug cartel leader.
The clowns argued at the time that their costumes were frequently stolen and then used to commit crimes.
The annual clown convention, known locally as the "Kings of Laughter" convention, brings together professional clowns from across the continent.
There are about 10,000 professional clowns registered in Mexico, according to the Latin-American Clown Association.