Crackdown on demonstrators

The agenda of the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ) of the Senate tomorrow includes a controversial and potentially dangerous item concerning the guarantee of the right to protest: the vote on the amendment to Senate Bill 508/2013, penned by Senator Armando Monteiro. The text written by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Pedro Taques, increases the penalties for crimes committed in the context of “concentrations of people”, which represents an approach that criminalizes the right to protest.

According to Rafael Custódio, coordinator of the Justice Program at Conectas, the bill uses the pretext of security to, in practice, restrict freedoms and criminalize demonstrators. “It will increase sentences for crimes that already exist and include, as an aggravating factor, the use of masks during the act,” he explained. “It is an opportunist bill that exploits a particular moment of mobilization to exercise control over legitimate protest movements.”

Last week, Conectas and partners delivered a technical opinion to 15 of the 27 members of the CCJ recommending the rejection of the bill. The document was prepared in partnership with the organizations IDDD (Defense of the Right to a Defense Institute), Justiça Global, Article 19, IDDH (Defenders of Human Rights Institute) and Greenpeace Brasil.

“The Brazilian experience with popular demonstrations, observed since June 2013, has eloquently reaffirmed that the excessive official response, in addition to blatantly undermining the country’s democratic legal institutions, has only resulted in more violence on the streets and in the crowds,” reads the document submitted by the organizations.

“We need to halt this cycle of illegal violence that has clearly been unleashed by inept action by the State, and instead tackle isolated illegal acts that occur during popular demonstrations while also guaranteeing everyone the proper security so they can exercise fundamental freedoms that are indissociable from life in a healthy democracy.”

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