Conectas condemns violence at protest, requests hearing with government and will refer case to UN
Previously confined to the outskirts of São Paulo, police violence erupts in the city center and exposes deep flaws
June 14, 2013
The violent police repression unleashed in São Paulo yesterday against thousands of citizens protesting plans to increase bus and subway fares needs to be addressed urgently and decisively by the Internal Affairs Division of the Military Police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the political authorities responsible for the police action, in particular the São Paulo city mayor, Fernando Haddad, and the São Paulo state governor, Geraldo Alckmin.
Conectas has requested a public hearing with the state security secretary, Fernando Grella, and with the municipal human rights secretary, Rogério Sotilli. Society demands explanations for the police action and should call for those involved to be held responsible.
This morning, Conectas also began to reach out to various networks of national and international human rights organizations, in addition to organizations of journalists who work in defense of freedom of expression.
The organization will refer the case to the UN rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Arbitrary Detention. This will allow the rapporteurs to request information from the public authorities responsible for the events, and also to visit the site to conduct interviews with victims and authorities.
“What happened was an intolerable absurdity. In the name, supposedly, of following a simple order, namely protecting property and guaranteeing free circulation on the city’s roads, the police racked up a long list of extremely serious violations, including beatings, the sadistic use of non-lethal weapons and the curtailment of freedom of protest, of association, of circulation and of expression; in other words, a completely imbalanced approach, whether out of bad faith or incompetence,” said Lucia Nader, executive director of Conectas.
Yesterday afternoon and evening, staff at Conectas observed the protests at various points in São Paulo, witnessing the abuses committed by the police on several occasions.
The testimonies gathered, not to mention the countless videos already available, reveal the illegal use of force, since the police action was unleashed by an illegal political order intended to curtail the right of association, of protest, of free expression and of circulation of the demonstrators – rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.
There are also reports and evidence of disproportionate, unnecessary and sadistic use of force, since people who were passive, lying down, unarmed and offering absolutely no resistance were beaten with truncheons and shot with rubber bullets very often aimed at vital organs at close range.
Likewise, disrespect for freedom of expression and efforts to hamper the work of the press were clearly evident, especially when the police deliberately fired non-lethal ammunition towards a group of photographers and journalists who were covering the events.
The State was also incapable of adequately organizing the evacuation of the wounded and redirecting thousands of drivers who, during rush hour, could easily have avoided the area if proper diversions had been put into place. By limiting the police action to the simple repression of the protestors, the government has revealed once again how it views its role – severe, brutal and without the least interest in balancing the imperatives of liberty and security.
Finally, the sad events witnessed yesterday serve to expose, increasingly more clearly, the use of force that has been standard practice for many years in the poorer outskirts of the city that are outside the media spotlight and the attention of the social networks.
“Unfortunately, what happened yesterday in the center of São Paulo is only the tip of the iceberg. Our country runs the risk every day of losing its way when it comes to respecting human rights,” said Marcos Fuchs, assistant director of Conectas.
Read the public statement by Instituto Vladimir Herzog and a group of 11 entities, including Conectas, about police attacks against journalists at the protest of June 13, in São Paulo.
See testimonials and videos of the protest:
Feridos no protesto em São Paulo
Protesters trapped at Matias Aires street, in São Paulo: