This is the first post in a two-part series (read part 2 here).

In January 2012, some of our partners and I sat around a table in Rio de Janeiro to discuss how to make the stories we were hearing about forced evictions in the city more visible.  We were up against several challenges, and one of the biggest was confronting the local government’s repeated denials that the issue even existed, as well as getting the media to ask harder questions.

Mayor Eduardo Paes loved saying that “there were no forced evictions in Rio” and all of those having to move from their homes to make way for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics-related construction were “being fairly compensated and adequately resettled.”

But from visiting communities throughout the city, we knew this was just not true.

We also knew there were several videos circulating online with powerful testimonies from those affected by evictions and harrowing images of communities being razed to the ground.  These were videos shot by community members, alternative news collectives, NGOs, social movements, and mainstream media outlets.  But because they lived scattered and unconnected across the web, they weren’t telling a larger story, and they weren’t having the full impact they were capable of.

So we asked ourselves: how could we use these videos to paint that larger picture, to connect the dots between those stories and prove that forced evictions were indeed happening and needed to stop?

We decided to start collecting all the videos we could find on forced evictions in Rio and embark on a curation project – a mission to identify, verify, catalogue, contextualize, and systemize the isolated dots on the YouTube map in order to draw the constellation and shed light on the overarching story that was unfolding throughout the city.

How we did it

Over the course of 18 months, we identified 114 videos, from raw cellphone clips shot in the heat of the moment to edited pieces.  We then catalogued them using a Google form to ensure the uniformity of the data, and we organized the material according to several different sub-categories, including:

  • Name of community
  • Stage of the process, whether the community was at-risk of forced eviction (before), undergoing an eviction (during), or already evicted (after)
  • Types of violations that were being reported (including intimidation, harassment, violence, demolition without prior warning, partial demolition of communities to pressure families still resisting, violation of the rights to information, participation in decision-making, consultation, adequate resettlement and compensation, among others)
  • Types of testimonies, noting the most powerful excerpts
  • Official allegations to justify the evictions
  • Information about the creators of each video

We then set out to verify the information in the videos.  We did this by using the journalistic standard of triple-sourcing information to ensure accuracy, seeking three independent sources to corroborate and confirm the reports from each community.

The next step was to link the violations in the videos to the specific laws they were breaking at the local, state and federal levels as well as in international human rights treaties ratified by Brazil – we were lucky to have a fantastic team of volunteer lawyers who helped us do this.

Finally, it was time to look at the data to extract the overarching story.  Here’s an excerpt from one of the testimonies we watched:

At 10am they got here with all of the machinery, police, riot police with specialized weapons.  They started kicking people out of the houses.  If you didn’t agree to leave, they would take that bulldozer and tear down the resident’s door, and then the officers would come in and take you out by force to demolish the home.” Edilson, resident evicted from the Restinga community in Voices of the Mission: Restinga

Our findings

Stay tuned this week as I’ll share more about our findings in part 2 of this series, for example: in communities undergoing forced evictions, 53% of videos reported the lack of prior warning before demolitions and 44% reported intimidation, threats, and violence during the evictions.

Until then, you can read the curation project’s complete report of findings (currently available in Portuguese only) and explore the videos by going to

A huge thank you to all that worked so hard to bring this project to life, including our curators Glaucia Marinho and Gizele Martins, as well as Vladimir Seixas for editing the compilation video, Tiago Donato, Renato Cosentino and Mário Campagnani for working on the curation page and distribution, and the volunteer lawyers Adriana Britto, Alexandre Mendes, and Mariana Medeiros.

To help those fighting to end forced evictions in Brazil, support the work of our partners at Comitê Popular Rio and sign the petition at the #RioSemRemoções campaign.  And to learn more, check out these blog posts and watch these videos.

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