As the World Cup kicks off in Brazil this week and protestors take to the streets once again, WITNESS and our partners are launching a collaborative database that will use Google Forms to monitor, catalogue, organize and systematize videos and photos of police violence during the World Cup protests as they unfold.

Connecting these videos to each other helps illustrate a pattern of violations and counters the allegation that any abuse is an isolated incident perpetrated by “bad apples.”

By inviting activists, protestors and journalists to use the Google Form to submit their images of police violence, the database will help connect those dots while collecting precious information to fuel advocacy and legal efforts in the months to come.

Anyone can submit videos or photos to the database by going here:

In two days, the guide and form have already been widely shared on social media and covered by media outlets like the BBC and Rede Brasil Atual. We’re receiving several offers for help and messages of support, so stay tuned here for updates on the process in the weeks to come.

Multiple Instances of Abuse, Mounting Evidence

When mass protests first erupted across Brazil in June 2013, video quickly became a key tool to expose the violent police response to the demonstrations and fuel public outrage. In some cases, images shot by citizen witnesses and videoactivists helped exonerate innocent activists of false charges (like the infamous Bruno case which the New York Times Lens blog wrote about here or the case of the officers that planted fake evidence into a student’s book bag during a search).  Videos were also used to reignite the debate on the need for demilitarizing the police, and to pressure the Brazilian government before strategic audiences like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

However, the full potential of using video to secure accountability for police violence was not fulfilled. Despite mounting video documentation and reports of at least 1700 arbitrary arrests, hundreds of injuries, 23 protest-related deaths, and many other violations, not a single police officer or commander has been held accountable for the violence in Brazil to date.  Even worse, the violence is expected to increase during the World Cup protests as we see the National Armed Forces take to the streets and read of the new technologies the police are adopting to monitor and curb protests.

So the question we and our partners asked ourselves was: How do more videos equal more rights?

Part of the answer is training more people to create better video documentation of these violations, and working with lawyers and other groups that can use those videos to push for accountability.  Towards this goal, WITNESS is offering several workshops in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo this month in partnership with videoactivist collectives and other human rights allies like Advogados Ativistas, Article 19 BrazilConectas, and others.

We have also joined forces with several partners to launch a new practical guide on how to film police violence in protests safely and ethically (in Portuguese). The guide explains which laws protect protestors’ rights to film the police in Brazil while also offering suggestions on how to capture the most common violations in ways that increase the potential evidentiary value of those images for future pushes for justice and accountability.

You can also call on the Brazilian government to uphold human rights in the protests by signing this petition created by Amnesty International.

Image: Video still of Sérgio Silva, a photographer who lost an eye after being hit by a rubber bullet during a protest in Sao Paolo in June 2013. Via Um Olho a Menos No Protesto, by Rua Filmes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *