On the opening day of the FIFA World Cup, security forces in practice suspended a long list of individual freedoms to guarantee the success of the World Cup. Although a State of Emergency has not been declared, the security forces acted as if various rights had been suspended, among them the freedom of expression and the right to protest.
At yesterday’s demonstration in São Paulo, the Military Police repeated the tactics it has been using for exactly a year now, corralling demonstrators in narrow streets instead of facilitating their dispersal.
According to GAPP (Popular Protest Support Group), 38 people were wounded at the confrontation in São Paulo, including the group’s first-aid workers.
Instead of tackling illegal behavior on an individual basis, the Military Police indiscriminately attacked a group of people who were protesting near the Carrão subway station, wounding many, including journalists. Detained and immobilized people were assaulted by police officers. One of the videos shows a demonstrator receiving two blasts of pepper spray to the face at close range, one in each eye, which according to international standards could constitute “mistreatment or torture”.
According to reports, the Military Police encircled the protest, leaving people with nowhere to flee, and then fired tear gas and light and sound grenades into the crowd.
The police simply blocked access by the population to entire regions of the city, determining where citizens could and could not circulate. Posters critical of the World Cup were censured and citizens were subjected to searches at subway stations “under suspicion of being demonstrators”.
Attempts to shield the event violated the freedoms of movement, protest and expression, and police officers were incapable of differentiating criminal activity from the simple exercise of the right to protest.
“Brazil needs to find a balance between guaranteeing security for the World Cup and guaranteeing the rights of its citizens. People do not forfeit their rights just because the country is hosting an event, whatever the event may be. Life goes on and the protests are a part of life,” said Juana Kweitel, program director at Conectas. “By shielding the event, the police are trampling on the Constitution and undermining their very reason for being, which is to protect citizens and guarantee the free exercise of their rights,” she added.
Citizens who have video footage and photographs of the abuses committed at the demonstration can use a platform created by Witness so these materials can be used as evidence in future legal cases.
If you have been the victim of police violence and want to file a complaint to the authorities, email us at email@example.com or contact the special commission created by the São Paulo State Public Defender’s Office to take part in World Cup-related events. More information here.
One year later
The excesses committed over the course of the day yesterday occurred exactly a year after one of the most brutal police crackdowns of a demonstration, on June 13, 2013, in downtown São Paulo. To date, a full 12 months later, not a single police officer has been brought to justice.
A Freedom of Information request filed by Conectas to identify who was responsible for the orders that violated countless rights also remains unanswered.
The complaints filed by Conectas and partner organizations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS (Organization of American States) have received evasive answers from the Brazilian government, which has contributed to the continuity of the climate of impunity and violence.
“Giving empty responses to the serious and concrete violations that are still taking place on the streets is the reaction of a deaf government that denies information on police conduct, conceals the progress of administrative inquiries and does not recognize its own deficiencies,” said Lucia Nader, executive director of Conectas. “It’s impossible to make progress in a debate on rights when the other side is evasive and displays contempt when confronted with the violence of reality.”