Repression Rains Down on Pro-Democracy Demonstrators in Brazil

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Repression Rains Down on Pro-Democracy Demonstrators in Brazil

"We're here to show that the people still have power and that despite the coup, we are here in the street to bring down the government and call for a new election"

Demonstrators attend a protest against Brazil's President Michel Temer in São Paulo, Brazil, September 4, 2016. The sign reads ''Temer Out and Elections now'' in reference to President Michel Temer. (Photo: Reuters)

Protests took place in multiple Brazilian cities on Sunday, in support of ousted president Dilma Rousseff and against the now-officially installed government of her successor, Michel Temer.

Agence France-Presse reported from São Paulo:

Demonstration organizers—who have rejected Temer's ascendancy as a "coup"—said some 100,000 protestors filled the major artery Paulista Avenue, many holding banners that read "Out with Temer!" and "Direct elections now!"

"We're here to show that the people still have power and that despite the coup, we are here in the street to bring down the government and call for a new election," protester Gustavo Amigo told BBC.

Though he is prohibited from running in the next election because he was found guilty of violating campaign finance rules, former vice president Temer is set to serve the rest of what would have been Rousseff's second term, ending in 2019.

BBC reported that the São Paulo rally "began peacefully but police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon as clashes broke out at the end."

El País reported:

According to six EL PAÍS reporters who were posted in different areas during the march, the rally proceeded without incident from 4.30pm until 8.45pm local time, when protestors filled the square. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the police arrived and dropped tear gas outside and inside Faria Lima metro station. People took refuge inside bars. Members of the press were attacked. Marina Rossi reported that photographer Mauricio Camargo was hit with a rubber bullet. A BBC Brazil journalist was beaten with a nightstick even though he was clearly identified as a member of the press.

The police said they attacked the metro station because vandals provoked them. The first smoke bombs were used after a group started to shout: “Free the turnstile!” They were asking authorities to give people from the suburbs a free pass into the city. Critics note that turnstiles were unlocked during past demonstrations against Dilma Rousseff.

BBC Brazil journalist Felipe Souza offered this account of being attacked despite reportedly identifying himself as a member of the press:

A group of riot police suddenly decided to change course. I leaned against the wall to wait for them to pass.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

I was wearing a BBC Brazil vest and badge and I raised my hands and said I was press.

"Move over!" said at least four police just before catching me with truncheon blows on the right forearm, left hand, right shoulder, chest and right leg.

My forearm swelled up and turned purple. The phone I was using fell to the ground and the screen was broken. Luckily, the blow I took to the chest was cushioned by the vest I was wearing. I also wore a helmet and gas mask—complying with internal BBC rules for covering demonstrations.

According to Reuters, there were smaller anti-Temer demonstrations on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, and other Brazilian cities.

And TeleSUR notes that "Sunday's demonstration was the fifth in six days held in opposition" to what many are calling a coup in Brazil.

"Police were the subject of criticism for their heavy handed approach in earlier demonstrations," TeleSUR points out. "One young woman, Deborah Fabri, was left blind in her left eye after police shot her in the face with a rubber bullet during a rally earlier this week."

The Popular Brazil Front and the People Without Fear Front, which together represent more than 90 groups, have also called for another large-scale protest in São Paulo for Thursday.

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