An analysis of the Brazilian protests

I feel compelled to write about the Brazilian protests today, something that I was restraining myself to comment on the last few days mainly because I was astonished by the proportions the protests had taken and oddly surprised by the heterogeneous crowds that has taken the streets, and at the same time I was here in the US, a mere observer.

It all began with the a protest called by the popular movement Passe Livre in São Paulo, concerned with the bus fare raise on R$ 0,20 or $0,09 cents of dollar, and the imminent possibility that trains and subways fares might be raised too. Some articles argued that poor people would have to struggle to make ends meet, and probably would end up skipping meals in order to be able to go to work. What some people don’t understand is: São Paulo is a big, crowded, unplanned city with serious traffic issues. It can take hours to drive 6 miles during peak times, even more time if you are on a bus. One day a week, depending on which is the last number on your license plate, your car is not allowed on the streets from 7am to 10am and  5pm to 8pm, and that still doesn’t help much.

The movement was trying to problematize the raise of the fare considering, also, the quality of the service provided. Public transportation in São Paulo is one of the most expensive in the world and yet the population sees nothing but crowded, uncomfortable, slow, and almost inefficient buses, trains and subways. In  2010, 37 million people didn’t had access to public transportation because they couldn’t afford it, according to the movement this figures would only go higher.

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What happened after the first, second and third protests were, to say the very least, unexpected. Police brutality against the protesters, the population, photographers and journalists, even the one’s covering the event, started to change the public reaction. While mainstream media was talking about protesters as bums, vandals and criminals, public opinion began to shift. Photos, videos, comments shared on facebook brought new light into the discussion, people started debating online what was happening in the protests. When mainstream journalists were arrested for carrying vinegar on their backpacks, something they would use to diminish effects of the gas bombs police was throwing on the protesters, and even shot with rubber bullets, my timeline filled with more and more videos. Now, mainstream media was shifting too, aligning themselves with protesters.

The first and second protests were brutal, but the third one started everything. After June 11th, every person I know, not only the journalists, were talking about bus fare, protests and police violence. Everybody expressed a deep dissatisfaction towards the government and how it handled the protests, and the catch phrase “it is not about 20 cents” started to spread. It involved civil rights, a bigger cause, and its relation to people’s mobility all over the city. I started to read about other cities and what they were also doing. Some of sort of organization came arose from social networks, and we could see it online, live. Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Fortaleza, and many others places were having protests too. Hackers started to get into governmental websites and spread the word on the protests.

In São Paulo, people started saying they would show up at the next protest, on a thursday, and even more people took the streets yesterday night. Even conservatives were calling people to participate, because “it is not about 20 cents”, it was about corruption, all the resources invested in the World Cup that we would never get back, the stadiums that we built and we would never use again after 2014, the politicians salaries and its discrepancy in relation to a normal citizen’s paycheck. It became a protest about education, health, public transportation and more.

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The fairest account I’ve seen said 250 thousand gathered all over the city, although some biased newspapers said it were only 60 thousand and the police claims it were 30 . I saw beautiful pictures and displays of communion, kindness and strength. I saw signs of hope, flashes of dreams and utopias. It was bigger, louder and more colorful than anything I have ever seen or imagined to see in Brazil. And, I must say, I saw it online, from the US. I tried to accompany the march and keep up with everything that was happening in every city of Brazil, but it was an insane task. I saw Rio’s congregation of 100 thousand ending in much more violence than the protests in São Paulo. It was historic, and you could see how excited people were online. It was so new, such a strong statement: the giant awakens.

Yesterday night, after coming home, a few protesters started to express their deep concern with what could happen. A pandora box appeared to be opened, and different sectors were using the protest to discuss their own agendas. A petition for the impeachment of Dilma Roussef, Brazilian president, started to appear on my timeline, something that wasn’t even part of the original cause. People that marched on the protest organized by the Passe Livre was now claiming the movement didn’t represent them, especially after some of its representatives were interviewed in public tv saying that they were fighting for 20 cents, but their main cause was always free public transportation, a decent service provided by the government. The lack of organization was palpable. Dissonant voices appeared everywhere, and politicly active journalists are now concerned with how the conservative majority will spin it around to yet another regression.

Now that we have learned we can take the streets and make ourselves be heard, let’s use our voices for the right causes. It is time to be coherent and protest for the causes you believe in, being aware which flags are walking with you and which organizations are organizing the protest you choose to be in. Don’t give politicians, newspapers and media stations the opportunity to dismantle or discredit a fight for a good cause such as the bus fare and public transportation just because we need to fight for other things as well. Social transformation won’t come in a day, after one pacific protest. Many more protests will come, hopefully.

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3 thoughts on “An analysis of the Brazilian protests

  1. Pingback: The latest on Brazilian protests | quirksmag

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