If citizens of a country feel their rights or livelihood are being trampled upon by their country’s ruling government an act of protest can be the one form to show their discontent. Protests, or demonstrations, can range from peaceful to violence dependent upon the interaction between demonstrators and agents of the government (i.e. police officers).
What can start out as peaceful marches, sit-ins, or boycotts can become violent when people who feel they have a right to express their anger about their government is suddenly silenced or arrested by an officer who represents what they are protesting against. Last week, a wave of protests swept over Brazil and has shown the intensity of how peaceful protests become violent.
Over the past week, Brazilians have taken to the streets to publically demonstrate against the country’s poor handling of transportation, health services, education and security in lieu to the heavy taxes they have been paying for unmet services. The protests that have swept across the country have left it on a rocky stalemate.
Throughout the country’s eight cities the protests have been mostly peaceful with an estimated 240,000 citizens nationwide coming out to support the demonstration. But, in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte the peaceful marches have turned violent when intensified emotions lead to police confrontation and vandalism.
Some of the reported protests have been acted out upon state buildings. In Rio, confrontation between protestors and police officers are reported to have dragged on during the night as the group attempted to move onto the state’s legislature building. In footage obtained by Brazilian Globo television network police officers are shown firing their guns into the air. One demonstrator was reportedly shot in the leg by a police offcer.
In Maceio, a 16-year-old high school student was reported as being shot in the face after a motorist was described as trying to force his way through a barricade built by demonstrators. When demonstrators began punching the car a shot was fired. The student’s injuries were not fully addressed.
On Monday at the economic center in Sao Paulo, 65,000 demonstrators gathered creating a type of carnival atmosphere with protestors playing drums while chanting anti-corruption songs marched on the center.
On Monday, President Dilma Rousseff released a brief statement about the demonstrations that have circulated around the country stating: “Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of democracy. It is natural for young people to demonstrate,” giving credit to the Brazilian youth who protests peacefully but not acknowledging the violence that has been an occurring trend.
While the President of Brazil may not have something to say, the United Nations’ Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the Brazilian government to take every “necessary measures to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and to prevent the disproportionate use of force,” asking for the government to find new motives to dismantle violent demonstrators due to the current motives only creating more injuries.
At a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Rupert Colville, spokesmand for the United Nations’ Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Brazilian authorities to “exercise restraint in dealing with spreading social protests in the country,” and asked for demonstrators to not “resort to violence in pursuit of their demands.”
The increase of protests and their violent outcome have led to the questioning on whether Brazil would be able to host international events like the Papal visit and the World Cup which is three years ahead of the country’s hosting duties of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
According to reports, some of the protests are in response to some Brazilians being upset that billions of dollars of public funds have been spent on the World Cup and Olympics when they should be spent on improvements elsewhere.
While officials within, and outside of, Brazil have commented on the protests a 41-year-old public servant name Maria do Carmo Freitas said she was excited about protests and that she is “loving it. It’s been a long time since we Brazilians decided to leave our comfort zone to tell our leaders that we’re not happy about the way things are going,” and she added, “We pay too much in taxes and we get bad services in exchange, bad hospitals, bad public education, public transportation is terrible,” a common anger shared by most Brazilians.
Maria Claudia Cardoso who, unlike Carmo Freitas, partook in protests said how the protests are a “communal cry…We’re massacred by the government’s taxes, yet when we leave home in the morning to go to work, we don’t know if we’ll make it home alive because of the violence…We don’t have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact that we’re not taking it anymore!”
According to a survey taken by the Datafolha a majority of participants at a Sao Paulo protest had no affiliation with any political party meanwhile almost three-quarters of Monday’s participants were first-timers ever taking part in the protests.
With the growing violent outcome of peaceful-intended marches, both protest leaders and police agencies have tried to prevent the violence.
Warning marchers about damaging public or private property, Protest leaders make it known that doing so only hurts their cause since it brings negative light on the protestors and generates false anger onto them and not the true culprits.
Meanwhile, Police commanders in Sao Paulo have publically addressed the concerns of demonstrations getting violent by stating they would try to avoid violence but will only do so if protestors destroy any public property.
The thought of protests aspire imagery of violence and chaos, and while they can become so it is only due to intense emotion being incited. Protests are a form of the public addressing the ruling body specifically and telling them something is wrong with how they are handling something and it should be changed. People should not be afraid to demonstrate, but they should not also be permitted to destroy something that has nothing to do with what is being argued against.