A day after the massive protests in Brazil, it’s still difficult to wrap my mind around what has happened. It was a day in which crowds in the capital, Brasilia, outmaneuvered the police force and climbed onto the roof of the country’s legislature, occupying it for several hours. Soon after news broke of this occupation of the national congress, further news emerged of the violent clash and attempted storming of the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro:
The video above from Rio is the most complete video of the clash. Most videos show the clashes after the police had already retreated inside. Also, you can see how the legislature is protected by two rings of barricades manned by fully geared riot police. This contrasts with last week when the protesters were able to assemble & rally right on the steps. You can see that here.
While the dramatic scenes from Rio and other locations in Brazil certainly demand attention, the fact that hundreds of thousands took to streets remains the most significant fact. This came after months of anti-fare hike protests in Porto Alegre, Natal, and Sao Paulo that would normally attract a few thousands. It demonstrates the precarious situation for authorities. They sought to break a rather isolated movement with brute force last week and in doing so angered the wider Brazilian public out of inaction. The visuals from Monday were of authorities on the back foot, literally and figuratively.
Brazilian authorities now contend with a force they don’t understood nor know the tactics with which to approach it. When provoked, social media is a powerful force, and it’s certainly an element of this. I’m used to reading Portuguese language hashtags almost exclusively about Brazilian music starts or celebrities. Suddenly on Monday, protest locations & rallying cries were dominating the twitter discussion for Brazilians. It’s like a light switch from indifference to revolt. And the impact of social media isn’t just the awareness it can spread. Now, when protesters go to the streets, they not only know what’s happening at their location, they know what happens at other protests and can react to those developments. Police violence in one city doesn’t provoke just the crowd in front of the police, it provoked the crowds across the country within moments.
Like many people in Turkey, the imaginations of Brazilians are captured by these events. The protests will certainly continue & with each protest Brazilian authorities risk further miscalculations. The police from last week who fired countless “nonlethal” rounds at protesters chanting “no violence” are the villains in this. Do the authorities have the sense to pull them back and sink the plot of this burgeoning movement? We’ll see in the days ahead.