Black Bloc Grows as Rio Protests Continue

By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The nationwide protests of June and July may have abated, but in their wake have come a series of cause-driven acts that continue to spiral into violent clashes between police and protesters. Tuesday night witnessed another spate of incidents following a protest in Cinelândia.

The Black Bloc took to the streets again this week following a teacher protest in downtown Rio, photo by

The Black Bloc took to the streets again this week following a teacher protest in downtown Rio, photo by Fernando Frazão/ABr

Whether teachers campaigning for better working conditions or doctors against the importing of overseas professionals, the common threads remain bringing disruption to the city and their fight to a wider audience, discontentment with the government, and, increasingly, the participation of members of the Black Bloc movement.

In each case, numbers have ranged from a few hundred to tens of thousands. Often starting peacefully, the group claiming responsibility for much of the subsequent destruction comes under the Black Bloc banner, a strategy that emerged in Germany in the late 1970s in response to police violence.

“Black Bloc is not a group, it’s a strategy to fight against capitalism and social oppression,” a Rio member, wanting to be identified simply as Amarildo, told The Rio Times. “We are outraged at the system, we fight against the government, corruption and police oppression.”

The 36 year-old has seen ‘member’ numbers rise rapidly in recent months with people from all ages and classes joining the cause. The Black Bloc RJ Facebook page has received more than 50,000 ‘likes’ since June, although several of its founders were recently arrested and charged with inciting violence.

“They want to be heard and to improve Brazil,” Rafael Alcadipani, a researcher at the Fundição Getúlio Vargas Institute, told The Rio Times. “They want to draw attention to current problems.”

Most recently, those protests have centered around Rio’s state and municipal school teachers and their ongoing strike for better pay and working conditions in the face of new regulations that were being hurried through parliament.

They may have been overturned, but Luiz Paulo Correa e Castro, from the teacher’s union SEPE, told The Rio Times; “[The teachers] demand an end to the low wages and the system of meritocracy in both networks”, and welcomed the presence of the Black Bloc in their fight despite buses being set on fire and buildings attacked during last week’s protest. Eyewitnesses at the time reported seeing Black Bloc members protecting teachers from the police.

The Black Bloc movement joins the protests on Rio's Cinelândia square, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

The Black Bloc movement joins the protests on Rio’s Cinelândia square, photo by Fernando Frazão/ABr.

“Any person or group can participate in our actions or demonstrations, provided they follow our guidelines,” continues Castro. “[We] point out that much of the violence that has marked the last protests came from elements that infiltrated the demonstrations, such as secret officers of the Military Police or more radicalized groups that blend right in the middle of peaceful protests to provoke and cause riots.”

‘Amarildo’ considers the violence and vandalism to be tools of propaganda, a means to voice their discontent, insisting it is directed against the government and capitalism, hence the attacks on banks and international companies.

“We don’t break things to destroy, but to show our dissatisfaction. We put the trash cans on fire as barricades, to hinder the police from getting at us,” he claims.

Followers of the Black Bloc have also been outspoken about the 2014 World Cup, whose over-budget expenses fanned the flames of public discontent during the Confederations Cup. “During the World Cup there will be as many protests as we can to show the world the absurdity of the World Cup in Brazil. The cup will be held for the elite and not for the people in Brazil,” argues Amarildo.

Tuesday’s Teachers’ Day public holiday promised to be one of the largest protests of recent weeks, but Sepe officially ended the action shortly after 8pm, hours after a decision was made to continue the strike. SEPE explained that the day’s protest should “raise awareness to the Carioca public of the importance of public education and its quality… We also want to express repudiation against the police violence in recent demonstrations.”

Once again, however, the protest ended with a pitched battle in Centro and around Cinelândia between police and several hundred activists. By 9PM, several streets were thick with tear gas and the smoke from fires set in the roads, whilst bank windows were left smashed and several arrests were made.

19 Responses to "Black Bloc Grows as Rio Protests Continue"

  1. Nicholas  October 16, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    Lisa Flueckiger, Rio Times, has zero shame to blog a biased article and hypes up a group that is indeed violent. It’s a disgrace that some journalist (thats what they believe they are) doesn’t question a person that said the following…

    “We don’t break things to destroy, but to show our dissatisfaction. We put the trash cans on fire as barricades, to hinder the police from getting at us,” he claims.”

    He can claim whatever he wants, but who, anywhere, that has common sense can justify this nonsense? Answer is none.
    The police (public servants) are there because they (ego centric black block) are creating chaos to show their dissatisfaction. You simple do not destroy buses, windows, doors, anything that is paid by the taxpayers, to show your dissatisfaction. You can show your dissatisfaction without any violence.

    ““Black Bloc is not a group, it’s a strategy to fight against capitalism and social oppression,””

    Black Block is a parasitic anarchist group of people that only cares about their ego. If they really cared about social opression, they would not support violence at all. Again, you don’t act violent to show your dissatisfaction.

    Does mr “Amarildo” understand what capitalism means? Why wasn’t he asked about that? Why was he not asked what kind of system they want? Does he understand that it’s a system he uses to fund the black block? Does he understand that it’s a system that when winners, no matter who, simply win and who lost, simply fails, won’t be bail out but still has a chance to rise again..so long it’s a plain level field for all. This is the problem of ignorant young selfish ego clowns who refuse to talk and just don’t do what they preach (they are against violence but act violent).

    Again, it’s a shame that young people support this behavior because they are angry. With this behavior, nobody wins and it’s a shame that some foreign born reporters in Rio not question this kind of behavior.

    “The cup will be held for the elite and not for the people in Brazil,” argues Amarildo.”
    Again, Mar “Amarildo” is showing his ignorance again. Ignorance exist when a small ego centric group of people just don’t want to face facts and don’t care at all than about them self. What elite is he talking about? The facts are simple, majority of the so called middle class people supported the idea of the world cup. Yes, the costs have gone up, but people (with common sense) should have known this before. Now what are Brazilians going to do? Support a violent ego centric group that does not represent Brazilian people at all, or say, lets make the best of the world cup, move on and make sure that public servants (those people in the government) also delivers the service what we really demand and need.

    ““They want to be heard and to improve Brazil,” Rafael Alcadipani, a researcher at the Fundição Getúlio Vargas Institute, told The Rio Times. “They want to draw attention to current problems.”

    Everybody who wants to improve Brazil wants to be heard, but again it’s a shame that Rafael Alcadipani doesn’t mention that it should be done without violence.

    “[We] point out that much of the violence that has marked the last protests came from elements that infiltrated the demonstrations, such as secret officers of the Military Police or more radicalized groups that blend right in the middle of peaceful protests to provoke and cause riots.”

    Does Mr Castro has prove? Where is it? If there is, why isn’t Rio times showing it? Why isn’t it on the alternative media on the internet? Because you won’t find it either on the mainstream media (for their biased reasons). Again it is a shame that Mr Castro doesn’t blast the violence, no matter from whom (secret officers or more radicalized groups).

    The Voilence needs to stop and it’s time that all people demand without voilence that this problem is being solved..there is money.

  2. Daria  October 16, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    They are like bolsheviks in Russia in 1905.

  3. Sérgio Silva  October 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    I really think that members of the Black Bloc movement are destroying the peaceful spirit of the protestes that have been happening in Brazil. All they are seeking is violence and committing crime of vandalism. They should be held accountable for what they do. The world doesn´t want to see more violence because it brings just unhappiness and nothing changes to the better. The Black Blocs don´t even know what they are fighing for. People who take their family to the protests´s crowds are now afraid to go out because they can get hurt by those rowdies.

  4. Lisa Flueckiger  October 16, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    Dear Nicholas

    Thank you for your comment.

    I would like to emphasize that The Rio Times does not mean to endorse or criticize the Black Bloc group, rather inform our readers what they say they stand for and how they justify their actions.

    Regards
    Lisa

  5. Tom Le Mesurier  October 16, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    In contrast to Sérgio Silva’s final sentence, I have stopped going to the protests because I’m afraid of the shocking, unprovoked *police* violence I saw and experienced first hand during the protests over the last 5 months. I don’t agree with the politics or rhetoric of Black Bloc, but I’m not surprised that they are gaining sympathy because they appear to be standing up to the brutal treatment handed out to peaceful protesters by the police.

    Having been to some protests myself, I’ve been able to see the difference between what I saw with my own eyes and the way it was portrayed in the press the next day. Black Bloc isn’t the problem here – they are just a symptom that reflects people’s frustration with corrupt and inept politicians and police.

  6. Nicholas  October 16, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    Tom typed: Black Bloc isn’t the problem here

    Tom, Black bloc is becoming a problem and they need to stop now. The truth is, they don’t care about solving problems, it’s all about them and taking advantage of situations.

    “they are just a symptom that reflects people’s frustration with corrupt and inept politicians and police.”

    Not all politicians and police officers are corrupt and inept, but the ones who are corrupt and inept must be removed by the people without violence (burning buses, cars, police cars, garbage, destroying windows of banks, small business owners etc etc that does not make any sense). The Black Block (selfish youtube/twitter/facebook losers) ruin everything for the protesters, people who do really want solve the issues in the country peacefully and effectively and important, don’t care about black block’s nonsensical ideology, which they copied from spoiled bored selfish Europeans who only cared about creating chaos, because it’s so fun. Enough is enough.

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  8. American in Rio  October 17, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Some food for thought:

    “Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.”
    ― Thomas Jefferson

    “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
    ― Thomas Jefferson

    “Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.[1] Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787[2]

  9. American in Rio  October 17, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    I posted the preceding quotes from Thomas Jefferson, not in defense of pointless violence, and not blind support of the Black Bloc movement.

    But, I sincerely believe, that most Brazilian don’t feel a sense of ownership of their country and government. We’ve lost a great deal of that sense in the US – the NSA outrages – unchecked. But, how does an honest person here stand up to this government? Forced voting, Voice of Brazil, government propaganda from all sides. I’m amazed at the “News” I hear on Globo and the clear government slant they perpetrate.

    Ask a Brazilian about why they put up with the highest taxes, zero infrastructure, poor education and health, corruption and most will just shrug their shoulders.

    I am hopeful that, thanks to the internet, a new generation will evolve and really make Brazil the country of the future.

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  11. cameron paul  October 18, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    As a European living in Brazil,the difficulties are all too apparent compared to the more developed world (which has it’s own set of problems) Corruption on a huge scale has long been the curse of this country but to change something that is so inherent in the culture is an enormous undertaking, sometimes I think it just won’t be done but as an optimist by nature I also feel that maybe the new generation will determine to erode this appalling situation. For a country with such a relatively large economy the infrastructure is a disgrace and political corruption must be the chief suspect here. Brazil has much to offer, enormous natural resources, stunning coastal landscape, overall benign climate and a large city (Rio) with a location surpassing any other on earth. The country of the future needs to become the country of the present!

  12. Tom Le Mesurier  October 18, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    @Nicholas – I have also been frustrated by the pictures of people clad in black kicking in shop windows and ATMs. It is letting down the large majority of peaceful, conscientious protesters who are turning out to legitimately protest the many failures of politicians and police in this country. Personally I feel that anyone who thinks anarchy is the way forward needs to grow up and be a lot more realistic about human nature and the world around us.

    But that said, I think this obsession with Black Bloc is a big red herring, a smoke-screen. Agreed, the damage they are causing is not irrelevant to the business owners (not to mention the rest of us) who are being affected. But by concentrating on Black Bloc we are missing the *far* more important issues which are drawing the protests in the first place.

    Nicholas wrote “Not all politicians and police officers are corrupt and inept”
    -Of course they’re not *all* corrupt/inept! But a *lot* of them ARE! This is common knowledge and it’s a serious problem for Brazil and Brazilians. It’s great that people are coming out in large numbers to protest this state of affairs and demand higher standards from their public servants.

    If I were a corrupt politician/policeman who had been happily cheating my way through life for the past 10-20 years, you know what I would do? I would try to push the attention onto Black Bloc. I would make sure my buddies at Globo get lots of juicy footage of idiots kicking in windows because then everyone will talk about that instead of how their elected politicians are stealing from them.

    Are the kids who smash windows playing into the politicians’ hands? Yes, they are and I wish they would stop. But in the context of Brazil’s current situation, complaining about Black Block is like worrying about some vandalism when the government/police are (literally) getting away with murder.

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  15. Nicholas  October 26, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    Tom: Everybody knows that GLOBO exaggerates. My point is, all protesters who really care about solving the issues are better of without those “black bloc” middle/upper middle class spoiled schmucks.

    “American” (you mean US citizen)in Rio. Brazilians DO FEEL sense ownership and over their government. That’s why they went on the streets. Something not possible in the US, because they don’t have the courage against their own outragous corrupt government that is in bed with the banksters (do I have to remind you about the outragous bailouts???)..same thing in Europe, where they only talk and do nothing about their own monster, the EU government, which is much bigger and corrupter compare to the one in Brazil. The only difference is, in Brazil they are amateurs how to hide their corruption.

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