Here’s some surprising news: a pro-democracy protest yesterday in São Paulo (7 September) did not end in police aggression. This stands in contrast to the violent repression witnessed all last week against crowds of two to 30-thousand, and on Sunday against a much larger mass of 50-100 thousand, as I discussed in posts here and here, respectively.
In a Medium post for independent media agency Democratize, Victor Amatucci points out that lines of black blocs led a 10-thousand-strong protest 7km from the centre to Paulista and back, without incident. Could it be that the absence of riot police at this demo, rather than the presence of black blocs, was the reason behind the lack of conflict? You don’t say.
Media blamed black blocs for instigating violence much of last week (example). When I was present (Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun) I did not personally witness any instigation on the part of demonstrators. That said, even parts of the old left blamed black blocs for prompting police action. On the other hand, rumours abounded that plainclothes military police were infiltrating protests and initiating vandalism and violence to justify police repression.
[UPDATE: According to this report, a student group arrested just before Sunday’s protest started was infiltrated by a policeman posing as a leftist on Tinder. The group of 26, which included minors, were then held without access to lawyers and allegedly were forced to sign statements without attorneys present as well as some having evidence planted on them. A judge later released most of them, claiming it recalled practices from the era of the dictatorship. This, supposedly, is the work of ‘P2’ an undercover military police unit, that many protesters claim to be infiltrating protests. The only amusing part of the story is the Tinder profile included a falsified quote from Karl Marx (“Democracy is the road to socialism”). Not only brutal and illiberal, but can’t even do their research properly.]
In any case, the ‘black bloc justification’ is old hat, being a reporting trope since June 2013. Sometimes it has proved true, but it still doesn’t justify widespread and indiscriminate repression.
The reason for police reticence yesterday is unclear. But my speculation as to whether the military police’s strategy might have some federal direction is bolstered by a fact I neglected to mention: federal justice minister Alexandre de Moraes was São Paulo state minister at the Secretariat for Public Security from Jan 2015 to May 2016, under current governor Geraldo Alckmin.
[Featured image: Wladimir Raeder/Democratize]