On Brazil’s Independence Day (7 September) tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities throughout the country to call for the removal of unelected President Michel Temer and for the holding of general elections. Temer was installed as head of government at the end of August after the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Temer was greeted with jeers when he appeared briefly on the streets of Brasilia as part of the official commemorations. Later on the same day he was loudly booed as he opened the Paralympics in Rio.
Protests organised by independent groups have been gaining momentum all over the country after the final stage in the impeachment of Dilma began ten days ago in the Brazilian Senate, in a process that even some senators have admitted was politically motivated.
The demand for general elections is the same demand that was made 32 years ago when broad swaths of Brazilian society came together in the famous “Diretas Já” demonstrations to call for the end of the military dictatorship.
Although the 7 September demonstration was peaceful, the police had responded to earler demonstrations with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Dozens of people were arrested.
In one of the protests, on 31 August, protesters were taken to hospital after alleged confrontation with the police and many more were detained. A nineteen-year-old girl was blinded in the left eye after being hit by shrapnel from a stun grenade.
The forcefulness of the police reaction is widely regarded as unwarranted. There is widespread concern that the police is abusing its power and violating human rights.
In a repeat of what happened during the 2013 demonstrations, mainstream media are trying to criminalise the protesters, focusing on the destruction and damage to property caused by small groups of vandals, or Black Blocs. Their normal response to police repression is to cause havoc.
Again, just as in 2013, the more numerous the images of police repression and violence on alternative news outlets and social media, the greater the number of people taking to the streets in protest.
When asked about the protests on 2 September, Temer, still in China, dismissed the demonstrations, saying they were carried out by “small groups and predators”.
He is then quoted as saying: “These are small groups … I don’t have it numerically, but they are 40, 50, 100 people. It’s nothing more than that. Out of 204 million Brazilians, I don’t think it means much”.
Two days later, on 4 September, came the response: 100,000 people took to the streets in São Paulo alone in a peaceful march that lasted for four hours.
The protests are not being masterminded by the Workers Party (PT), even though it was their president who was ousted. Instead, it is social movements — mainly People Without Fear Front (Frente Povo Sem Medo) and Brazilian People’s Front (Frente Brasil Popular), formed by members of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and the Central Body of Popular Movements (CMP) – who are taking the lead.
These movements fight for the rights of workers and have been angered and alarmed by the radical neoliberal agenda being implemented by Temer, which will dismantle the social welfare system and erode workers’ rights.
No sooner had the event ended, with leaders telling people to disperse and make their ways home peacefully, when the riot police moved in, blocking streets and closing access to the underground station. It used a vast array of non-lethal weapons – stun grenades, tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. The police fired indiscriminately, at women, children and the elderly.
Commuters on buses and underground, and people in nearby bars and restaurants were hit. Eyewitnesses said that the square soon resembled a battlefield, with people desperately seeking cover.
A reporter from BBC Brasil was first insulted by the riot police and then knocked over.
As has become the norm, the main newspapers in Brazil failed to report adequately on the peaceful rally, concentrating instead on images of the destruction allegedly caused by protesters.
This biased reporting will become the official account of the event. With São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin praising the police for “its history of legality” and its efforts “to preserve law and order and the rights of citizens to come and go,” it will feed into a climate favourable to more police brutality.
Spontaneous protests are escalating throughout the country, not only in big cities and capitals, but also in small isolated towns, and quickly becoming a national movement.
Are Temer’s days numbered?
The Senate has launched a public consultation on its website asking people to vote on a proposal for a constitutional amendment calling for new presidential elections. More than 92% of the people who have voted so far want new elections.
At the same time, doubts have arisen as to the legality of Dilma’s impeachment, particularly the decision not to remove her political rights, even though she was impeached.
Leading lawyers have been quick to express their alarm at this procedure, which was reportedly the result of horse-trading with the Workers Party in Congress.
Celso de Mello, a normally cautious judge who is a member of the Supreme Court, said that: ”Article 52 of the Constitution [that governs impeachment] is a unitarian structure, indivisible and indecomposable”.
After appeals were lodged, the Supreme Court will now have to decide if the action was constitutional. If they decide that it was not, then Dilma may find herself back in the presidency again. The bizarre opera may not yet have ended.
The photo at the top of the article should be credited to Jornalistas Livres.
Videos from Midia Ninja’s Facebook pages:
Fora Temer and booing at Paralympics opening ceremony:
Peaceful march before police violence on Sunday:
Police attacking protesters as they were leaving on Sunday:
Police violently arresting protesters:
More police violence on Sunday:
Police Violence by Marina Rossif:
Felipe Souza BBC Brasil Reporter attacked by riot police:
Guilherme Boulos (MTST) calling on people to leave peacefully and not accept provocations from the police. “We will not let them take images of violence from our act today”:
Video by Adriano Leopoldo Duque Grant
People in a bar shout “There will be no selfies”, referring to demos against Dilma where protesters are taking selfies as a police car drives by and thus indirectly provoking the police to fire pepper spray:
Made by Democratize
Metro station closed: (Jornalistas Livres):
Video of 7 September demonstrations
video: Adriano Choque and editor: Mídia Ninja