Black Lives Matter: Protests Raise Tone Against Racism in Brazil
Note from BW of Brazil: With some questioning the effectiveness of protests and marches (myself including), tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets on Sunday in various cities, not only to join demonstrations going on around the world in memory of the African-American male, George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but also for the many black Brazilian lives that are being cut short by murderous police actions, and also to stand up for democracy that many believe is being threatened due to the presidency of current president, Jair Bolsonaro. Below is a report on the marches as they went down in the country’s largest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
“Someone has to fight; we’re dying”: With Vida Negras Importam (Black Lives Matter) marches in 10 cities, protests raise tone against racism in Brazil
Protests against the Bolsonaro government spread to dozens of cities and ignored orientation to avoid social agglomeration. “I am more afraid of racism than of the pandemic”
By Carla Jiménez, Priscilla Arroyo and Isadora Rupp
Thousands of people protested this Sunday around the world against racism. In Brazil, it was no different. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 36,000 people and infected more than 690,000 in the country, protesters took to the streets, ignoring the recommendation to avoid agglomerations, to demand an end to racist violence, to raise anti-fascist flags and defend Brazilian democracy, in contrast to the protests that have been taking place for weeks ―with the adhesion and support of President Jair Bolsonaro – for the closure of the Federal Supreme Court and the National Congress.
“I am more afraid of racism than of the pandemic” Obviously the coronavirus kills, but racism is very cruel,” explained Julia, a young black woman from the south of São Paulo, one of the ten Brazilian cities where there were massive protests. “What is the use of staying at home if the majority of the black population is not able to be quarantined?”, justified designer Tânia Aquino, 26, who was also at the São Paulo protest at the Largo da Batata public patio. Those who didn’t go to the streets, went to their windows: there were pots being banged in several capitals. There were also some acts favorable to Bolsonaro, albeit to a lesser extent, in the cities of São Paulo, Rio and Brasília.
The act in Largo da Batata, on the west side of the city of São Paulo, began timidly and gained strength for little more than two hours. The place was full at around 3 pm, even taking a stretch of Avenida Faria Lima, one of São Paulo’s most important financial/commercial avenues. The Military Police estimates the total number of participants at 3,000, which appears to be slightly below what the report testified. The organizers say there were at least 10,000 people. Hundreds of police officers were present around the square.
People arrived a little tense not only because of the fear of encountering police violence, but also because of the precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Armed with protective masks and alcohol gel many with facial shields, the public was diverse. There were young people, whole families and even the elderly, who justified the trip despite belonging to a risk group of the Covid-19 because they thought it was important to have their voices heard. Despite the organizers’ requests for people to keep their distance from each other, there was little respect for the proposed social distance of one to two meters.
From the top of a sound car, black leaders demanded the engagement of white people to save “vidas pretas” (black lives). “Democracy never existed. Racism is part of the white man’s DNA, you are criminals,” provoked a young leader, who warned: “now it’s time for pretense to take over,”he added. A group of black collectives shouted the names of murdered innocent people, from the girl Ágatha Félix, passing through João Pedro, who died in São Gonçalo, to councilwoman Marielle Franco, who died two and a half years ago. “Marielle asked / I’m also going to ask / how many more have to die / for this war to end,” said a girl, in the center of a circle of young black people.
Many posters against racism joined others against President Jair Bolsonaro who were present. Banners against the return of the military dictatorship also demanded the maintenance of the democratic regime. Screams of “Fora, Bolsonaro” (out with Bolsonaro) and “Vidas negras importam” (black lives matter) were the basis of the meeting, which lasted until about 4:30 pm, when the protesters decided to march. There was a climate of hope, but also a sense that the anti-racist struggle has a long way to go. “We are taking a stand against authorities who oppress underprivileged classes like Northeasterners and blacks. We are all afraid of Covid, but as I live alone, I am not a risk to others,” explained Rodrigo Silva, 33 years old, who declares himself to be punk.
Overt policing impressed and made the environment tense. With a tear in her eyes, the nursing technician Ana Paula Braga, 41, said she felt “overwhelmed”. “We cannot let this evil force in the country grow, of authoritarianism. I am a woman, black, I feel that we are losing more freedom every day. Unfortunately, I see no hope for the near future. What we are doing here today is a construction”, said the woman who is a civil servant and a public employee of the Ministry of Health.
The clashes with the police were the great fear of the governor of São Paulo, João Doria, who acted so that the demonstrators for and against the government meet. “All we don’t need is to establish confrontations on the street right now in Brazil. This will only serve those who have an authoritarian project and want to justify the presence of the Army and with a more authoritarian and tougher measure before a State or group of States,” she said in an interview the previous week.
But on a day of anti-fascist and anti-racist protests, four young black women reported being approached by the police. “We came to protest against racism and we suffer racism up close. We were surrounded four times on the way and during the act. Now, on the way back too,” says Tainah Andrade, 18, pointing to the car. “They stopped us, but they didn’t stop the group of white girls who were right in front of us,” said the protester.
Participating in his first protest, Lucio Lima de Paula, a black student from Itaquaquecetuba, chose to carry a poster against intolerance. “We are stopped, surrounded, we are disrespected. This is part of the routine, but I got tired. I know the dangers of covid, but racism has killed for years and we cannot be afraid. If we don’t come, no one will come for us,” said the young man. Veteran Juarez Correa Barros Junior, 63, said he was “addicted to democracy” and explained why he chose to take a risk to face an agglomeration in the middle of a pandemic.”I feel more insecure in Brazil with this president than I have ever felt in my entire life. I left home today to show my anger and indignation.”
Initially, the demonstration was to take place on Avenida Paulista, but the organizers changed the location of the act after a decision by the São Paulo Justice, since in the center there would be a pro-government concentration. At around 4:30 pm, the demonstration in Largo da Batata was closed by the organizers, who recommended people to go home. One group, however, decided to march to Avenida Paulista, but was prevented by a police blockade. Police negotiators tried to move members to leave the streets, but they insisted. “Those who are still here are vandals, those who spoke out were good citizens,” said the executive secretary of the Military Police, Colonel Álvaro Camilo, live in an interview with CNN Brasil. In the end, the police dropped gas bombs to disperse those left behind. According to the Military Police (MP) final balance sheet, 14 people were arrested.
In the evaluation of Guilherme Boulos, candidate for the Presidency in 2018 for the PSOL party and one of the leaders of MTST, one of the organizers, the demonstration is the beginning of a path to stop fascism in Brazil. “We started last Sunday and continue today. If only fascists are on the streets, however much a minority they are in society, an atmosphere of intimidation ends up being created. It’s what we want to avoid,” he said.
A week after an anti-racist act ended in police repression and turmoil in the capital of Paraná, a cordon of riot police, vehicles and cavalry surrounded the Santos Andrade Square, where the Vidas Negras Importam – Fora Bolsonaro act was held in Curitiba. Ostensive policing was disproportionate to the number of protesters, searched one by one before entering the boundary of the square. With their hands on their heads, they had their bodies and backpacks inspected. Water bottles and the now ubiquitous gel alcohol were opened and checked, while a MP helicopter flew over the square and its surroundings.
Upon seeing the approaches, environmental engineer Everton Rocha, 31, hesitated. A black man, born in the interior of Bahia, has lived in Curitiba for five years, where he completed his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Federal University of Paraná. “For a second I thought about not going and going back home. But someone has to fight. We are dying,” he lamented.
The decision to search the participants, according to a spokeswoman for the Paraná PM, Lieutenant Michele Trindade, was due to the depredations that took place last Monday, June 2, and to ensure the safety of the protesters. “The organizers were very helpful, and the OAB (Brazilian Bar Association) and the Public Ministry also helped in this intermediation”, he declared.
According to the spokeswoman, four people were arrested for possession of narcotics. But in the analysis of the public defender and coordinator of the Ethnoracial Policies Group of the Public Defender’s Office, Rita Cristina de Oliveira, the MP could not have done the pat down. “It’s an illicit way of preventing the right to free expression”, evaluates the defender. “It’s not frivolous to say that this doesn’t occur as a standard adopted in the current pro-government or pro-Lava Jato or anti-corruption demonstrations, which are common here in the city. At this point, it comes (the time) to reflect on the successful embranquecimento (whitening) project that stifles the cry and the presence of blacks in this city historically, and that is reproduced in police action”, he added.
Miguel Otávio, Ágatha Félix, George Floyd
“It’s a sense of fear, that my right to speak and to come and go is being limited”, lamented Natasha de Miranda Gomes, 21, a member of a socialist collective. In Curitiba, as in other Brazilian capitals, the death of the boy Miguel Otávio Santana da Silva, 5, who fell to his death from one of the buildings of the “Torres Gêmeas” (twin towers) in Recife, was remembered with emotion. “And we can no longer settle for things as they are. With Miguel, a black boy, dying because his mother had to walk her employer’s dog during full quarantine. We fight for anti-racism and anti-capitalism. The black people never win in this system,”completed the young Natasha.
Part of the protesters went to the Iguaçu Palace, the seat of the state government, under the watchful eyes of the police. On the way, from the apartments, locals beat on pots and joined the chorus “Fora, Bolsonaro”. Protesters and police remained at the scene until early evening, and there was no record of confrontation.
In Rio de Janeiro, protesters gathered in front of the Zumbi dos Palmares monument, around 3 pm, and walked to Candelária. In addition to the anti-racist posters, the repetition of the names of the black victims of police violence composed the track for this Sunday act: “Marielle, present!”, “Agatha Félix, present!”, “João Pedro, present!”, “George Floyd, present”.
Source: Bahia em Pauta