“Brazilian apartheid” rears its ugly head again: Military Police screen and harass black youth from entering an upper crust shopping mall

Young people being interrogated by Military Police at the Itaquera shopping mall
Young people being interrogated by Military Police at the Itaquera shopping mall

Note from BW of Brazil: OK Brazil, so what’s next? There’s racism on the beaches, racism on the job, racism in the hospitals, racism in the schools and in the society overall. Now there’s another trend that’s getting to be a regular thing: racism in the shopping malls? Well, in reality, this isn’t new and not surprising as people have spoken of harassment in shopping malls of Brazil for years and it recent news over the past few months have proven that this type of harassment hasn’t gone anywhere. But, in this case, playing the devil’s advocate, why choose the mall to organize a get together of thousands of people? I mean, the average mall can get overcrowded during just the Christmas season. On the other hand, if this was a political statement then perhaps this was exactly the point. Although middle class whites are again trying to justify their hysterical attitudes about the presence of the “other”, the Brazilian media has been using the “A” word quite a bit in describing this practice of authorities choosing who is “acceptable” to enter the mall and who isn’t. And this “A” word is generally associated with the legalized segregation practiced in South Africa until the 90s. But, as we have seen, Brazil practices its own style very well also!

Shopping Metrô Itaquera on December 7, 2013

by Maria Martin, Brasil 247, Daniel Mello and Jornalismo Wando

On Saturday, six São Paulo shopping malls managed the support of the courts to block their automatic door so that police and private security guards could identify who they wanted to allow to enter. The target of discrimination: unaccompanied low-income minors. This is the profile of who is jeopardizing several shopping centers in the state with the so-called rolezinhos, and huge get-togethers of young people, convened by social networks that, even without the intention of offending, annoy customers and store employees.

It’s not the first time that malls have strengthened security and identify those who don’t fit the profile of the average consumer, but the injunction (interim decision) and of the judge forbade and warned of a fine of R$10,000 (US$4,242) for whoever participated in this type of demonstration planned yesterday in four shopping centers in the state. At the JK Iguatemi mall, located on the coveted Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue, the security guards came to stop the entrance of employees, young people who didn’t have the face of buyers of one of the most expensive malls in the city.


The convening of the rolezinha, with 2,500 people confirmed on Facebook, was put down before it even started – the photo of the injunction pasted at the entrance of the mall spread by social networking before the event, but there was confrontation between youths and police in Metrô Itaquera shopping center, where the first episode was recorded on December 7, with about 6,000 participants (video above). The police, who estimated that Saturday 1,000 teenagers gathered about, acted violently to disperse the crowd. Customers of the establishment filled out two police reports for theft and riot. Three teens were arrested, but two of them have already been released, police said.Nothing was found on the two young men, 15 and 19. A 16-year old was arrested, according to PM with a stolen cell phone in his pocket. He is suspected of being one of 11 people who assaulted two brothers with punches and kicks. The group stole cell phones, shoes and hats of the victims outside the mall. The apprehended minor was to be sent to the Vara da Infância e Juventude (Child and Youth Detention).

The law is clear. In January 1989, still in the government of former President José Sarney, was enacted Law 7.716, which defines the crimes of prejudice based on race or color. The fifth article is clear and defines crime as “refusing or hindering access to premises, refusing to serve, tend to or receive a customer or buyer.” That’s exactly what happened at the JK Iguatemi shopping mall when the mall security guards did ​​a screening to define who could go and who should stay out – in the second group would be those who had the appearance of young people from the periphery, ie, pardos (browns) or negros. Penalties range from one to three years. In Itaquera in the east zone, young people were assaulted with rubber bullets and batons; a crackdown on “rolezinhos” explains how far Brazil still has to advance in the field of equality.

Aware that they could not discriminate against customers so explicitly – because law 7.716 is clear and has severe penalties – the owners of the mall were only able to screen because they got a court injunction. That is, the prejudice was backed by the courts. It was feared that young people from the periphery organize in the JK Iguatemi, the Mecca of luxury in São Paulo, a “rolezinho” – a manifestation which states the identity of these young people and tries to show society that they are not invisible or second-class citizens. However, with the injunction, the court contributed to what was erected in São Paulo, the wall of prejudice.

The planned get-togethers of these young people, viewed with suspicion by upper-middle class white families who prefer to spend the afternoon in these establishments shielded by security to leisure in the street, marked Christmas in São Paulo. The rolê on December 15 at the Guarulhos shopping mall ended with 23 prisoners who were released shortly afterwards. They were accused of carrying drugs or theft. There were other notices like that of January 4 at the Metrô Tucuruvi mall, in the north zone, where the participation of about 400 students, according to PM , led stores to close their doors three hours earlier, even without a sign of an uproar.

The phenomenon of rolezinhos, with characteristics similar to so-called flash mobs (spontaneous gatherings of people convened by social networks in a given space for the same purpose) has, like so many others on the agenda of the country, divided Brazilian society. Some people associate the mall injunctions to apartheid. These are the ones those who argue that these teenagers from the periphery, mostly black with a minimum salary income range of about R$724 (US$307), are putting the focus on inequality between classes, on oppression, bothering richer customers looking towards the malls for safe consumption far from the reality of those from the slums. On the other side of this debate are those who call them vandals, supporters of private space, threatened by a movement without slogans and without clear objectives that they don’t understand and who believe that all this energy and capacity to bring people together could be invested in other areas: from attending more articulate protests like those last June to looking for jobs.

Blogger Eduardo Guimarães, a Brasil 247 columnist, states that a constitutional right of young people of the new middle class was violated. And sociologist Ruda Ricci compares “rolezinho” to the “occupy” movement – the difference is that, this time, it is exercised by citizens from the perifery.

Just as serious as what happened in JK Iguatemi was the outcome of the “rolezinho” in the Itaquera mall, on the east side of São Paulo. There, young people were beaten with batons and rubber bullets by police without there having been any record of violence. Stating the basic: all American citizens, regardless of color or appearance, are entitled to attend the same establishments.

“I was afraid. I’ve been in other rolês, but this time the PM (Military Police) was beating up on a little girl,” said a 14 year old. In a statement, the police defended their methods. “At the bus terminal, due to the commotion, the use of riot control techniques with the use of elastomeric ammo (commonly known as “rubber bullet”) was necessary and stun grenades,” said the corporation.

On Saturday, the 18th, there will be a new “rolezinho” in the Itaquera mall. In JK, the injunction also prevents the entry of any unaccompanied minor – unless you convince the security guards that there aren’t any young people from the periphery. Ie: the courts enshrined Brazilian apartheid; which also proves the delay of the country in promoting equality. On June 11, 1963, when blacks were barred from attending the same shops as whites in the United States, then President John Kennedy made ​​one of his most important speeches.

The rolezinhos, meetings marked through social networks by young people from the periphery in shopping centers, began late last year. The first was organized by funk singers in response to approval by the City Council of a bill banning dances of the musical style in the streets of the state capital. The proposal was vetoed by Mayor Fernando Haddad in early 2014. The rolezinhos continued to be organized however. Police have repressed the acts .

For sociologist João Clemente Neto, of Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie (Mackenzie Presbyterian University), demonstrations in malls are linked to the lack of places for recreation and culture. “If you were in some places, even in middle-class neighborhoods, you cannot find space for this. If you take the city of São Paulo, how many millions of youth and teens do we have? And the spaces for free expression are miniscule,” said the professor, who works with children and adolescents in vulnerable situations.

For Neto, the young choose to manifest in the visibility of the local malls and the message they try to pass. “All that we talk about of consumption, that they want to see and want to consume, is in the mall. At the same time, it’s a form of resistance because there is the space of consumption. So when you speak there, it’s a way for that group to recognize themselves in that space,” he concluded.

Note from BW of Brazil: So how is it that these occurrences are seen by those belonging to a higher income bracket? In the piece below, Jornalismo Wando exposes the panic and over-reaction from those of a more European appearance and pokes and in a tongue-in-cheek manner shows race and class based fear, stereotyping and privilege of the Brazilian who continue to have one believe that racism is only a thing of the American.

Imagine the following scene: you are sitting comfortably with your family in the food court of a mall, taking bites of meat and cheese pizza when in comes a bunch of young negros and mulattos jumping and singing tribal type funk songs. Have you imagined this? It’s like living in paradise, enjoying the blessing of eternal life, and being surprised by a flood announcing the apocalypse. This was more or less what happened and has been happening in the malls of São Paulo, one of the few safe public spaces for the good citizen. Let’s look at excerpts from a story in the Folha newspaper:

A ghost haunted the Shopping Internacional of Guarulhos yesterday, the ghost of funk. The fear was that the scenes of panic and running, seen on Saturday when hundreds of teenagers, concentrated in one of the entrances, chanted a sort of anthem of war in unison, would repeat itself as they moved into the shopping center (…)

Inside the crowded mall, adorned with miniatures of the Greek Parthenon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Coliseum, animated reindeer and snowmen and Santa Claus rocked Christmas shopping (…)

Could it be an “arrastão”? A robbery? A riot? On Saturday, Helena de Assis, 55, manager of a branch of moving vans, swore she saw young people with revolvers in the food court. “You must prohibit these kinds of hoodlums from entering a place like this,” speaking in between mouthfuls of meat and cheese pizza.

In fact, the apocalypse painted by the businesswoman seems to have been much worse than it actually was, which is quite understandable. When she saw that black sea running and singing in horrible dialects, Helena – would she be some sort of (novela writer) Manoel Carlos? – she came to see teenagers carrying guns, despite the Military Police and internal cameras not having registered anything. But it is easy to understand what led her to imagine this mirage: a cluster of young blacks + favela (slum) music + running = arrastão. This is a conclusion that every good tax payer concerned with the preservation of species and good values come to​​.

All too obvious, but it’s there that comes up the famous “defenders of criminals” saying that the police did not register any complaint of theft, assault or vandalism. Young people would have organized the meeting just for the confusion, to exercise their adolescence, in an excess typical of this age.

But the defenders of the weak and oppressed don’t stop there. Instead of taking the poor to their homes, they accused the media of being racist. A true absurdity. There was even one that defied common sense and wrote a text entitled: “Rolezinho and affirmative action against racism.” Among other things, the blogger says:

“Fear, panic, horror happens not because they are thousands of criminals who, by internet, organize to loot the mall. Fear, panic, horror happens because they are black ( … ) No wonder the events are associated with funk: música negra  (black music), the periphery and favelas. If they were white teenagers listening to, say, Los Hermanos, they would certainly not be arrested as exalted and quarrelsome as they were, although the police were eventually called.”

Good to know that the “good citizen” exists and expresses themselves in the comments:

Jose Rivero: “It’s pathetic how everyone in this country says everything is racism. These idiots that make a commotion in a public place have to be treated as rigorously as possible pau neles this is what we pay police for to defend us.” (Note: original comments in Portuguese below)

De frente com a verdade: “You feel sorry for them, huh? You think the police is wrong??!! Take this group to your house and when you have trouble with robbery, rape and other things like this…call Batman!!!!” (Note: original comments in Portuguese below)

Implying that the people of the periphery that create commotion in the mall is a thief and a rapist, does not seem to be prejudice to me. It is only the law-abiding citizen, who is often also from the periphery, wanting to protect themselves from people who cause fear.”

It’s incredible how everything turns into racism in this country dominated by the “politically correct.” Now one can’t even offer bananas to a black man before there are people running to denounce racism. Even in the statistics, which show the black receiving lower salaries than whites for the same functions, these people sees racism. Ie, they want to patrol the way entrepreneurs pay their employees.

Outraged by all this artificial victimhood I was looking for videos on Youtube proving that prove crimes committed in the rolezinhos. Revolvers, depredation, robbery and assaults strangely didn’t appear in any. But the racist comments are present in almost all videos and articles on the subject, which made me wary:

Marucelow: “Later you ask me why I hate black people…F*ck you, the place of the black is in jail!” (Note: original comments in Portuguese below)

Silvio Fernandes: “I saw everything and I witnessed everything, you know why?! Because I was there….there was a lot of running, ugly people running.” (Note: original comments in Portuguese below)

If it were in the US, I would find this normal. But racism in Brazil? Hmm….I don’t want to accuse anyone, but I suspect they are fakes created by the author of that post just to give legitimacy to his absurd theory.

In the pages of the calls for such rolezinhos, the event is described as a diversion to make a “commotion”, “give some kisses”, “meet new friends” and “take a lot of pictures.” But Ms. Helena and commentators read: “arrastão”, “fire a few rounds”, “meet some new victims” and “make multiple assaults.”

After the panic, back to all of our pizzas with meat and cheese and forget these people of bad taste.

Source: Edição Brasil no EL PAÍS,  Brasil 247, Jornal GGN

Original comments in Portuguese
Original comments in Portuguese
Original comments in Portuguese
Original comments in Portuguese
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. So if teenagers out of school for the Christmas break cannot meet up in a mall, where are they to meet up? I cannot think of any mall on a Saturday that is not full of teenagers. The mall is just about the only place they can easily go to and maybe grab a burger, watch a movie, and purchase a small inexpensive item of some sort.

    What a travesty when the poor start getting punished for being poor, put on top of that being Black and poor, a double punishment for these teens who have no control in the life they have been born into. So if they are locked out of the malls, locked out of the God-given beaches, locked out of walking the streets of certain neighborhoods, then what will motivate them in life? They will have no reason to dream, just going to some of these malls could possibly be the catalyst to let them see that their is a different existence outside of the favela, and to have a dream for a different life for themself, isn’t it every parent’s dream for their children to achieve more than they did? Now with the government curtailing their free movement, they will be demotivated and in many instances accept their fate and stay in the favela for the rest of their days, eking out a life of abject poverty and vicious cycle will continue. More importantly, Brazil is using these tactics to ensure they will have a continued underclass in the favela residents, particularly in Black and Brown peoples – they will be welcome to clean the mall as adults, but not welcome to visit it otherwise. This is mental slavery at its finest!

  2. This is just so NOT TRUE. I live in São Paulo and I am watching what is going on. Brazilian shopping malls do NOT prohibit the entrance of black or poor people. What they are trying to avoid here are organized riots of hundreds or even thousands of people in shopping malls. These people are not going shopping. It all started quite harmlessly with some youngster facebook buddies trying to have some fun. The more recent cases though are all planned political actions, Of course the extremely unprofessional aproach by the police does help only the bad politicians (the majority in Brazil), who shamelessly explore these events to their advantage. Sad times…

  3. I guess this is why people are fearing traveling to Brazil. A person’s life means nothing with hostile,death hungry corrupt police,military…. forgot it Brazil!

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