Cole Howard on Brazil


On February 22nd in the city of São Paulo an anti-World Cup protest resulted in violence and destruction. According to the São Paulo police 230 arrests were made; of the total arrests journalists were included.

Not the first protest to have taken place this year in defiance of the World Cup, others have occurred in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo earlier this month as well as in January. The general theme of outrage which fuels these protests is the continued dramatic government spending in preparation for the event—the accumulated cost has already reached over 11 billion dollars—while local prices on services like public transportation continue to rise.

The recent protests are smaller in scale than the nation-wide protests that took place last summer during the Confederation Cup, though they reflect upon a persistent social unrest in relation to this upcoming event. The multiple protests that took place in every major city in the country last summer had millions of citizens marching in the streets largely to defy government corruption and the social inequality that the upcoming World Cup embodies. What is different from the protests that began last year however is the message that they fight for. While in June there was a multitude of issues being discussed and banners of all causes displying this, now the cause appears unified with banners that state messages like “FIFA GO HOME”. In the early pushes of these social movements the overlying ideas being addressed were more of ideological questions like “Who is this event really for?” Now, although the numbers have thinned out the message is a direct statement, “We don’t want you.”

Police brutality appears to remain the common theme throughout the process of these protests. Heavy-handed police tactics including rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades have become the norm, often causing destructive retribution from anarchists in the crowd. Alleged reports suggest that protesters as well as journalists have been savagely beaten and on January 25th in São Paulo a 22-year-old male was shot twice by three pursuing officers; one witness claimed that he was unarmed and shot in the back while fleeing. The shooting is currently under investigation.

Protests and social unrest reflect upon infringements of human rights. These continued themes of civilian resistance directly tie in with my project, World Cup on the Margins, as they display normal people’s recognition of how marginal they are in the eyes of the state.  However all of these events make me question what percent of the demographic of protestors are from the lower class or are residents of favelas (Brazilian shantytowns)? Last summer there were separate protests that took place in favelas and they were largely ignored by the media unless violence broke out and was followed by a body count. Are the same kinds of social activism taking place in the favelas currently or have the lower class joined forces with the more publicized events that are taking place? World Cup on the Margins hopes to answer these questions, amongst many others.

If you would like to contribute to the cause, check out the Indiegogo campaign!