By C.H. Gardiner
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Copacabana beach played host to demonstrations in favor of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, but just blocks away, several hundred people, including residents of Rio’s favelas, gathered to protest the increased state violence that many say the president is encouraging.
The two public actions show the very divided spectrum of Brazil’s political sphere which has jumped from populist leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to conservative firebrand Bolsonaro.
At the demonstrations in favor of Bolsonaro, many individuals refused to talk to journalists, citing WhatsApp messages claiming that the media would purposefully distort what was said.
But several pro-Bolsonaro supporters told The Rio Times that they were in favor of the policies of the president and saw opposition by centrist and left-leaning politicians as threats to Brazil.
Demonstrators held up banners calling for military intervention and the shutdown of the Congress and the Supreme Court, which have opposed many of the president’s actions.
Several women held up placards with the words “Traitor” and a large red X over the faces of left-leaning politicians like Marcelo Freixo of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL).
The Ipanema protest entitled “Parem de nos matar“, meaning “stop killing us”, aimed to call attention to the high number of killings by police in the city’s more impoverished communities over the past few months.
Taina Teixeira, a young woman attending the protest, said that the government’s policy of invading favelas with the police turns innocent people into targets.
Teixeira said that the use of extreme violence by authorities has always existed, but under President Bolsonaro and Rio Governor Wilson Witzel, the situation has only gotten worse.
Bolsonaro was elected on a platform promising to reform the way that the government dealt with crime, and his fiery speeches, talking of shooting criminals in the head, struck a chord with many Brazilians tired of years of violence and corruption.
In the months since elections, Rio de Janeiro has experienced a spike in police shootings. According to Rio’s Institute of Public Security, the period has seen more individuals killed by police than at any time in the past two decades.
Police have said that the killings are legitimate, while human rights organizations say that many police shootings, like that of 13 men in Santa Teresa and eight men in Maré, have the characteristics of extra-judicial executions.
Recent shootings by authorities of innocents like Evaldo Rosa dos Santos, the musician who was shot and killed by the Army in Rio’s north zone, have left many Brazilians asking whether security operations are becoming too aggressive.
Fatima Andrea Monteiro, one of the attendees of the “Parem de nos matar” demonstration, said that favela residents are being exposed to violence every day by a security policy that only cares about the residents of Rio’s more affluent neighborhoods.
“The favelas don’t have policing. The government has a policy of invasion; they kick the door down and start shooting,” she affirmed.