The last weeks saw brazilian citizens going back to the streets in several cities. In a movement unseen since the protests against the corruption, during Fernando Collor´s term as president back in 1991, youngsters are gathering at the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio and other capital cities by the thousands to protest again. This time against the raise of the public transportation fares.
They call themselves Movimento Passe Livre (Free Pass Movement) and their demand is simple: free public transport for everyone. In Sao Paulo, the bus fare was raised from R$3 (US$ 1,36) to R$3,20 (US$1,45). It seems like a small raise, but at the end of the month it means the difference between have lunch or not for some poorer workers.
If you think about it, in a country with plenty of state-secured rights (health, education and social security just to name a few), the idea of a zero fair for public transportat is not absurd at all, but that´s not exactely the point.
As many of todays mobilizations around the world, brazilian ones begun on the web, through social networks, by common people, without suport from any NGO or political party. It is an organic movement, not organized.
The first protest happened in june, 6th; it gathered thousands in Paulista Avenue - the financial heart of the city and, traditionally, the leading place for this kind of demonstration in Sao Paulo. After a few hours, things got out of control as the police started to repress the manifestation. Amongst the thousands of protesters, there were some who reacted to the police violence (who used tear gas and rubber bullets) and against the property (public and private) around them. Some stores had their showcases broken, subway stations and buses got vandalized. People got hurt.
Brazilian press urged to treat the part as the whole. The protesters where called vandals. The claims lost its legitimacy before they could even be known.
On the papers, journalists wrote about how the city suffered from the violence of the protests. Traffic - which in Sao Paulo is known for always being jammed- were never so complicated as on the day of the protest. Subway stations had to be closed, disturbing the lives of hundreds of thousand just because of some unoccupied middle class youngsters with nothing better to do. Not a single vehicle took the time to interview a protester, nor to enter any of the several public online comunities where they get organized.
On the web, photos of the protest begun to emerge, as well as testimonies from eyewitness and protesters. They painted a different picture in which the truculence of the police raised the temperature. Twenty people were arrested with no charges. A photojournalist was beaten by the cops. A cop in a motorcycle deliberately ran over a group of protesters.
These stories spread faster them the media could broadcast the “official version”. New protests were scheduled - again on the internet. This time, the invitation urged the people not to respond violently to the violence of the police. More people came.
Again, the police proceeded with truculence. Amongst the thousands of protesters there were fewer willing to fight back - mainly punks and anarchists. Nevertheless, the news came out the next day treating everyone as vandals once again. No word on the police violence.
The governor and the mayor - on tour in France selling Sao Paulo as a candidate city to host the World Expo in 2020 - finally spoke: for both, the protests are part of a political movement willing to unsettle the society, i.e. organized vandals.
Part of the population bought this crap and demanded more repression from the police.
On the social networks, however, the movement gets more and more support. Every day, more people shows understanding of the violence caused and legitimated by the state.
As one reads the papers or watches the news, it gets clearer that TV and newspapers editors are having a rough time trying to convice their readers and viewers that the protesters are the villains. They try, nevertheless. Last night, the front page of one of the biggest brazilian newspapers called the Sao Paulo protesters vandals, and the Turkey ones by their proper name.
New protests are scheduled for this thursday, june 13.