Note from BW of Brazil: The denouncements against Brazil’s own vicious form of racial/social apartheid continue to come. As reported yesterday, the shopping mall is the latest place that the country’s differentiated treatment according to color is made obvious. “Place” here referring to both a physical space as well as an unwritten, socially accepted, preconceived ideology that limits the frequenting/filling of certain areas/positions of certain groups while allowing/imagining free, unlimited access to another group. To be sure, black Brazilians have complained about biased treatment and being followed around shopping centers for years to no avail, but in today’s era cell phone video and You Tube, the charges are getting more difficult to deny. Regardless of how one may feel about hundreds/thousands of people gathering together for whatever purpose (singing, dancing, protesting) in a particular area, shouldn’t the reaction of authorities be the same regardless of the participating group? In a society free of racial or class bias this would be true, which is clearly not the case in Brazil.
Below are two videos. The first is a report about the so-called “rolezinho” that was violently repressed by Military Police in an upper crust shopping mall over the weekend (lest we forget police bias against Afro-Brazilians). Notice that those running or being interrogated are Afro-Brazilian. The second video is from 2011 in which a large group of Economics students from Brazil’s top university sang and chanted with no police harassment whatsoever. As we know that white Brazilians are the vast majority of students in universities in general and even more so in prestigious courses, it should not be surprising the color and class of this group. Now you be the judge. Is this a “racial democracy” or a blatant form of “apartheid” that no one wants to admit exists in Brazil? Rodrigo Rodrigues and Fábio de Oliveira Ribeiro present their strong arguments below.
Report on a “rolezinho” in a shopping mall, January 2014
University of São Paulo economics students at Eldorado mall in 2011
Amnesty International calls Military Police actions in mall against ‘rolezinhos’ “discrimination” and “embarrassing racism”
By Rodrigo Rodrigues
São Paulo lived another weekend of conflicts because of the so-called “rolezinhos” a surprise gathering of young people from the periphery that usually happens in mall parking lots, in order to promote a quick show of funk, drinking beer and having fun.
In the Itaquera mall, in the East Zone of São Paulo, the Shock Battalion men used tear gas and rubber bullets to curb the meeting on Saturday (11), leading to panic for customers, shop employees and young people who were trying to have fun.
According to reports published in the press on Monday (13), without any evidence that they were dealing with a criminal element, the PM (Military Police) frisked and restrained the entry of some young people in this mall with threats like “I’ll kick your ass if I see you around here again.”
While this barbarism happened in Itaquera, on the other side of town, in Vila Olimpia, South Zone of the city, the JK Iguatemi mall filed a court order just to prevent another event called “Rolezaum in the mall” taking place on the same Saturday. The event was treated as a joke created by a professor indignant with the “phobia” of malls against young people from the periphery.
Without understanding the joke, the mall went to court and got an injunction with a punishment of a R$10,000 a day fine for whoever decided to show up there. Police and armed guards at the door of the mall searched any young man who did not seem to fit the profile of the frequenters, requiring identification in order to enter, whether to shop or work.
The executive director of Amnesty International in Brazil, Atila Roque, sees the reaction of the PM of São Paulo and malls clearly as a “discriminatory and unlawful attitude, according to Brazilian law.”
For Attila, the attitude of the PM and JK Iguatemi mall shows “embarrassing racism is what bothers so disproportionately the owners and patrons of these malls.”
He says he was absolutely shocked at the degree of violence of the PM in the actions at Itaquera mall and affirms once again that he is concerned about the escalation of violence of public forces against people young. “We are again showing the highly discriminatory nature that persists in Brazilian society,” he says.
Amnesty International is one of the main entities in defense of human rights in the world. In Brazil it is headquartered in Rio de Janeiro. Below is the full interview with Atila Roque, the main representative of the entity in the country.
Aside from going to the courts, the malls are calling the Military Police and Shock Troops to prevent the realization of these so called “rolezinhos”. Is this the correct posture?
The way the upper middle class and the Military Police have responded to the “rolezinhos” is clearly excessive. It calls into question the issue of segregation of space. These “rolezinhos” can be viewed from various angles, but the main one is a kind of humorous political act against disenfranchisement. It scares those who are used to a certain way of the segregated geography of Brazilian cities, in which each has their place and where everyone should know what their place is. What these kids are doing is bringing this “place” into discussion.
Police used rubber bullets and pepper spray against a group of young people this weekend. The rationale was to try to curb looting and robberies before they happen. How does this attitude seem to you?
What is generally accepted is that for the young, poor and black to frequent a luxury mall, he has to be in uniform or security or a nanny. If he is not dressed well, he is out of “his place”. There were no acts of violence or vandalism found on the part of most of these young people. What we have so far are young people laughing, joking, sometimes talking loud, something that is typical of young people of any social class. It is natural that they are accompanied by security guards to prevent any confusion there. Now, then wanting to curtail in an aggressive manner, blocking passage with the help of the police and the overt presence of shock (troops), is a clear form of discrimination. Just watch videos on the internet showing young whites doing exactly the same thing, but without the intervention of PM. If it’s white and middle class they call “flashmob”. When it’s black and poor becomes a threat of an arrastão, as some said today on the internet.
The governor of São Paulo and public entities such as OAB (Order of Lawyers of Brazil) have remained silent until now about these facts. Does this legitimize such discrimination that you mentioned?
Society needs to take this moment to discuss the characteristics of highly segregated cities. Embarrassing racism is what bothers so disproportionately the owners and patrons of these malls. Simply by the physical presence of the other that is not equal to or does not follow the ideal of normality that one agrees on for that location. For this group, that is a place reserved for only one type of person and social class. I see good-humored political expression of these young people for the assertion of rights. With even a certain provocation of course, but a very creative provocation.
Is using rubber bullets and pepper spray to protect a mall a correct attitude of the Military Police?
No. It’s clearly excessive. But unfortunately it’s in the tradition of the actions of the security forces in Brazil, which act only to preserve the property. The malls, even if dealing with private spaces are areas of public circulation. People enter the mall to look, meet friends, exercise the look of desire for something they cannot have and even buy. It is a private space for social movement. When you call the security forces to exercise restraint against a certain profile of people – in this case, young, black and poor – this is clearly a discriminatory and unlawful attitude, according to Brazilian law.
The police act without provocation, simply to prevent access based on a prejudice or a prejudice that they were there to rob or plunder, it is absolutely inappropriate. I read with amazement this use of force by the PM, with rubber and pepper gas against these youth. We are again showing the extremely discriminatory nature that persists in Brazilian society.
The violence of the PM of São Paulo was the trigger for public demonstrations in June last year. Is their action on these “rolezinhos” a sign that we learned nothing with those acts?
I think we still need to learn from what we experienced last June and take some lessons; lessons that there exists today in Brazilian society a legitimate desire for inclusion. It is a yearning for public policies that were before reserved to very few. The judiciary, the state and the police need to quickly upgrade to recognize such demands as completely legitimate. That was a moment in which society showed quite strongly that something is out of place. And that kind of attitude is no longer acceptable.
As happened last June, can this violent attitude of the PM cause commotion in society and lead people to the streets again?
A part of the manifestations concern precisely this demand for access, to culture, territories or spaces that you want to reserve only for some. The “rolezinho” is just such a demand for access. It is good that the Police and the State understand it, in order not to turn it into a conflict and violence factor again.
Rolezinho and racism
By Fábio de Oliveira Ribeiro
This week two countries clashed in a mall and the result was an explosion of irrationality.
Boys from the periphery of São Paulo (neither white nor born rich) got together for a “rolezinho” in the Shopping Itaquera mall. The result was excessive police repression and scenes that closely resemble those provided by the racist regime of South Africa before Mandela was elected president.
Malls are private places open to the public. Therefore, should not in any way discriminate who will or will not enter into their premises. Whoever enters a may not be required to consume, nor should they be forced out because friends decided to walk around the location. But this was not what happened.
The poor boys’ unwanted “rolezinho” caused a real state of exception. One part of the Brazilian population, white and born into well-to-do families, seemed to believe that they should have no right to come and go. So the “rolezinho” was brutally interrupted even with the consent of the São Paulo courts.
The CF/88 guarantees all citizens, without distinction of race, creed, color or economic status, the right to come and go. Therefore, the court ruling that implicitly repealed this guarantee to meet the racist and classist pretensions of the mall is quite questionable. Ditto for the brutal behavior of the PM, whose function is to ensure the exercise of the constitutional rights of citizens and not impede their exercise as if we live in a racial, socioeconomic or cultural apartheid regime.
The ruling which legitimized the brutal police repression in the mall and stripped the right of coming and going of the poor boys (neither white nor of privileged birth), exposing an open wound. In Brazil there exists two countries. One does not want to co-exist with the other and left it clear resorting to the brute force of the state to discriminate who can and who should not walk around in the mall.
At the slightest sign of conflict, the Brazilian government has abandoned the principles of racial equality and concession of individual and political guarantees to all citizens, in order to stand beside some (well- born whites) against the “rest of the population”. Thus, it was not the “rolezinho” that disturbed the order in the mall, the event only proved the disorder that is life in a racist and classist country that refuses to admit its inability to allow coexistence between the inhabitants of the “upper crust neighborhoods” and “favelados (slum inhabitants) from the periphery”, who should be contained in the periphery.
Unintentionally (or intentionally) the poor boys who participate in these “rolezinhos” are teaching us a very valuable thing: the system of racial, socioeconomic or cultural apartheid exists in Brazil and will have to be confronted. How does one face this confrontation?
The press seems inclined to criminalize the “rolezinho”. A clear indication of this is the fact that the journalist who authored one of the above articles mentioned not having issued any judgment about the possibly racist content of the decision to ban the “rolezinho” from the mall and the police repression that followed. No rational objection was raised against the contents of the court decision that absurdly stripped the right to come and go from youth who participate or intend to participate in these events. In a conflict of this nature whoever does not remain at the side of the oppressed legitimizes the oppression imposed by those who can employ state violence.
To date I have not seen the Ministério Público (prosecuting attorney) of São Paulo and the Federal Public Ministry step forward on the subject. Both are guardians of CF/88 and should be taking steps to enable that all young people, regardless of color, race, creed or socioeconomic status, can exercise their right to come and go in public locations and those open to the public. Racial discrimination is a crime and the Ministério Público is the bearer of unconditional prosecution in these cases. Will the owners of the malls be prosecuted for racism? Will court decisions allowing brutal police repression be questioned and the Judges that handed them down with obvious violation of CF/88 be represented in CNJ (Conselho Nacional de Justiça or National Council of Justice)?
We will closely follow the evolution of this new show of political irrationality. What is at stake is not the order, but the right to equality. The “rolezinho” is an excellent opportunity to recognize the existence of racial, socioeconomic or cultural apartheid. At this time, the task of the defenders of civilization must be to overcome it and not justify the racism of the omission.