Why did protests hit the streets of Brazil as the FIFA tournament began? This report by Midia Ninja, a Hivos in South America partner in Brazil, may give us the answer.
Police violence was the alarm clock on the morning of the World Cup’s first day in Brazil. The ball was kicked early, when public space became the site of a tough game between protesters and the State, who summoned its Military forces to protect the rule of law. In addition to São Paulo, where the Brazilian National Team made its debut, cities like Belém, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro were some of the cities hosting the yellow, the green, and the people on the streets.
Protesters exposed violations of their Rights in the preparations for the World Cup, making a statement on where they stand, and presenting their demands to the international press, which closely followed activists’ demonstrations. In the World Cup Big Brother, craving for confrontation images, Brazil lost an opportunity to celebrate our young but maturing democracy by avoiding disproportionately repressive moves.
Raw images arriving from multiple sources showed clearly how the State, in its repressive impetus, has acted on a daily basis in the country. We showed to the world, without masks or make up, our worst: the Brazilian Military Police.
In São Paulo, a small group of protesters contrasted with a large crowd of journalists and independent media with their cameras and safety equipment. Cinematographers, Black Blocs, workers’ unions and journalists, all surrounded by shock troops and attacked by tear gas bombs, rubber bullets and sticks. International press journalists tasted the Brazilian streets’ most common sauce: tear gas and pepper spray (OC gas). At least two CNN correspondents, an Argentinean from Associated Press and a cinematographer from Brazilian TV channel SBT, were hurt.
In the eastern zone of São Paulo, Black Blocs joined the act in support of Metro workers dismissed for being on strike earlier this week. Cornered by the police, groups appeared to exorcise the tension in the air by accusing each other, benefiting no one but the Military Police.
In Rio de Janeiro, two demonstrations organized by different groups gathered in front of Candelária Church (where eight sleeping children were shot dead on the front door steps by a death squad of policemen on 1993). Around four thousand people walked peacefully towards bohemian neighborhood Lapa, only to be received by a truculent police, abusing of unnecessary use of violence and arrests to disperse the crowd. When the ball was finally kicked on TV, Copacabana streets were split by “There Won’t Be World Cup” protesters and people watching the game at FIFA’s Fan Fest. An encounter of differences. As the game happened, tensions and differences between protesters and fans marked the atmosphere at Copacabana Beach.
Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state and the city that staged the tensest moments during the Confederations Cup a year ago, also made its appearance on the streets’ stage. The excessive police contingent, with Black Blocs’ direct actions, kicked off the traditional ‘smoke soccer,’ with its sequenced firing of tear gas and unbalanced teams: on one side, the warlike State apparatus; on the other, sticks, stones and broken garbage cans. Porto Alegre, Brasília and Belém also saw uprising against FIFA, guaranteeing mobilizations throughout Brazil during the country’s World Cup debut.
BRAZIL AGAINST THE WORLD CUP
The streets’ demands are not only against excessive expenditures for the World Cup, but against big corporations and their predatory accumulation practices, a real threat to the planet. It’s not only against police violence and irrational repression, it demands the end of the black and poor genocide in favelas and the demilitarization of police through the approval of PEC 51 bill by the Congress.
Protesters not only expose the Media dictatorship to which the country is subjected, but demand democratic communication, with regulations that take into account public interest and the social function of media.
It’s not only against the chaos in public transportation, but also the appalling services provided at excruciatingly high prices. Protesters are asking for effective mobility policies that allow the city to make sense of itself, to find its possible flows.
Movements do not only criticize the deficit in democracy and the distance between political parties and the society. Movements want to redesign the architecture of the political system, they want political reform and a constituent assembly composed by citizens rather than politicians.
People are not only against the health insurance and private education mafias. They want free and accessible health and education for all, public services that meet the challenge Brazilian society faces: the shameful 85th place in the Human Development Index.
People in the streets do not only oppose racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. They want an environment capable to put an end to the violence and anger that emerges from prejudice. They claim for the expansion of Civil Rights, reducing inequalities and penalizing prejudice. For a culture of peace and shared living that puts an end to the war on drugs and its war on the poor imposed by the prohibitionist policies and its repressive violence.
No. Its not only against the World Cup. It is, above all, for Rights.
Report originally published on the Ninja website.