Wave of anti-government protests met with police repression in Brazil

Peaceful Assembly

A wave of anti-government protests in Brazil is being met with sustained police repression, including the use of tear gas and beatings. One of the latest incidents occurred in Rio de Janiero on 18th October when thousands marched to reject a proposed 20-year freeze on increases to public spending. Police fired tear gas and clashed with protestors. In earlier protests, on the afternoon of 4th September, a peaceful demonstration in Sao Paulo opposing the impeachment of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and calling for new elections ended in violence amid widespread accusations of police brutality. The large gathering, which organisers claimed numbered 100,000 people, was about to disperse when police fired tear gas, spreading panic and resulting in the police beating of protestors and at least one journalist. Observers fear that following these disturbances, tensions could escalate as they did three years ago during large-scale anti-establishment protests on the streets of Brazil.

Students, who form a central component of the current anti-government movement in Brazil, are currently occupying more than 1,000 schools and universities in opposition to two initiatives by the Temer government: educational reforms and the proposed constitutional amendment aimed at limiting public spending. The occupations began in early October in Paraná, in southern Brazil. In all of Brazil, 1,047 schools (845 of them in Paraná), 102 universities and three other educational centres have been occupied, along with the Municipal Legislature in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo. As the government pressures the students to end the occupation, in late October some student associations reported that police are evicting them, sometimes without the necessary judicial authoritisation. The students are sustaining the occupation by self-organising cooking and cleaning tasks and arranging debates and workshops to fill their free time.

Association

On 4th November, police in São Paulo raided the Florestan Fernández National School (ENFF) of the Landless Workers' Movement (MST). The police arrived at the school without an accompanying Justice Department official and displayed on a cellphone an order to apprehend a woman who was not on the premises. Undeterrred, they invaded the school, and two people were injured as a result. As the above video shows, shots were fired and panic ensued during the raid. The Brazilian NGO Association (ABONG) issued a public statement rejecting the illegal attack on the ENFF School and denouncing the criminalisation of social movements such as the MST. ABONG views these moves as part of a wider strategy to cut off social rights, silence popular struggles and divert public resources towards the financial system.

Expression

On 8th October, the National Association of Editors of Magazines (ANER) and Reporters Without Borders expressed their discontent with a ruling by a Brazilian federal court which authorised access to a journalist's phone records. In February 2015 Murilo Ramos, a journalist with Epoca magazine, had disclosed a list of Brazilian citizens with secret accounts at HSBC bank in Switzerland, unleashing a scandal that became known as 'Swissleaks'. The court has now ordered that Ramos phone records can be accessed, after he had refused to disclose the his source to police investigating the origin of the leak. Both organisations denounced the ruling as a serious attack against the freedom of information and a violation of journalists' right to keep their sources anonymous.