By Seth Herschkowitz
Following the close of the World Cup on July 13th, we pulled together a list of select English-language news coverage on protests, police brutality and video in Brazil during the tournament. Brazilian citizens used the Cup as an opportunity to demand that the government work just as hard to provide basic services and alleviate poverty as it has to build stadiums and prepare for the competition. Now, with all eyes turning towards Brazilian general elections in October, activists are preparing to ramp up their activities to pressure for change and greater accountability.
In this article by “The Score,” author Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, (a human rights organization focused on protecting human rights defenders at risk) discusses tactics utilized by the Brazilian government to keep protesters at bay. Lawlor argues that these actions have worsened many of the underlying issues that originally inspired the protests. In a thorough critique, she outlines how the Brazilian government has “criminalized protests” and “silenc[ed] the opposition” in order to suppress citizen voices advocating for the prioritization of their rights to clean and efficient transportation, housing, and health services over development of stadiums and amenities for the World Cup. Coupled with police aggression, these policies and attitudes have fed tensions and divisions within Brazilian society. This is an outcome which, according to Lawlor, far outweighs the benefits of hosting an international soccer tournament.
World Cup 2014: Protests in Brazil fade to background – The Washington Post
In this analysis piece, Washington Post correspondent Dom Phillips reports on the visible absence of large protests during the World Cup in contrast to the demonstrations leading up to the games. He explains that although protests continued throughout the tournament, the decrease of active protesters was due to several major factors. First, he argues that the protest agenda changed and has now shifted to focus on the rights and health of citizens living in favelas, a set of issues that has estranged some middle class activists. Secondly, the Brazilian government has begun to seemingly adhere to the wishes and needs of those demonstrating, claiming to provide concessions and issuing the creation of housing in impermanent settlements in the future. This, coupled with increases in police action in response to an expansion of activists has further stifled the growth of protests. Lastly, Phillips notes that above all else, general excitement surrounding the Cup and a love of soccer has played one of the largest roles in subduing active conflict. In quoting a local demonstrator, The Post notes: “We are not in favor of the Cup. We are Brazilians, and football is the culture of our country… Protest in October, in the elections.”
Political sportswriter Dave Zirin takes a different perspective when explaining the decline of protest fervour during the World Cup. Zirin suggests that it is not the love of sport that has distracted protesters from hosting large-scale demonstrations during the games, but instead, a fear of violent police intervention. According to the author, after having attended an Anti-World Cup protest himself, Zirin left with the impression that the police have been so overwhelmingly aggressive and intimidating during demonstrations that citizens are simply afraid of putting their own lives at risk. Furthermore, many demonstrators have been jailed and brutally beaten, thinning numbers of activists on the streets. In concluding the article, Zirin writes that he hopes the media can recognize this perspective in their reporting, as opposed to simply labeling the bizarre decrease in demonstration a love of sport.
Published in the days leading up to the first kickoff, this article by Vice News provides a strong background on the protests taking place in Brazil, contrasting the demonstrations of 2013 with those leading up to the World Cup. Author Eva Hershaw explains that the widespread police brutality we have seen last year and during the World Cup is due largely to the inadequately trained police force who are unable to properly deal with demonstrations of this size and magnitude. According to the article, cost estimates for security at the World Cup in Brazil came in at around 900 million dollars, with the government having deployed 170,000 police and military personnel alongside the purchase of 2,700 new weapons for use with rubber bullets. Moreover, this report also serves as a great directory to a plethora of articles and videos covering the demonstrations, ranging from reports by Amnesty International to coverage of striking Metro workers in Sao Paulo.
This article by Mark Steel of The Independent gives deeper insight into the forced evictions and poor treatments of those living in Favelas during the World Cup. Steel sets the stage around this maltreatment through describing the building of walls adjacent to favelas in order to keep them out of sight. He states: “Maybe Fifa should have been even more careful, and insisted that the government built walls around individual people, if they couldn’t be bothered to make themselves look glamorous enough while the World Cup is on.” The author goes on to describe the government’s scramble to subdue protesters, deploying over 200,000 soldiers around the country to halt the spread of demonstrations. Included in the post is a video released by The Independent that paints a picture of the tensions on the streets of Brazil with tanks rolling by shops and soldiers marching through streets.
Seth Herschkowitz is a current summer intern at WITNESS.
Featured image courtesy of Nelson Antoine via Creative Commons.