Brazil: Outrage at violent São Paulo eviction

On Monday, following a court order, 240 police went to evict 800 families from the Olga Benário squatter settlement in an area called Capão Redondo, sprawling southern São Paulo. The property had been occupied for two years by hundreds of families, many from the social movement Frente de Luta por Moradia (the Front of Struggle for Housing). The property's owner, a transport company, was able to get an eviction order from a judge, even though it owes back taxes, and even as the State Public Defender's office was attempting to protect the residents. The eviction ended with burned houses and cars, and hundreds of families on the street in the mud.

Photo: Ferréz, used with permission

Photo: Ferréz, used with permission

Images of the violent eviction, in which the “shock troops” police used rubber bullets and tear gas, were broadcast live on major Brazilian TV stations and used extensively by print media, provoking reactions in the blogosphere and on twitter. Ferrez, who is a neighbor, blogged his outrage [pt], writing after witnessing some of the evictions he “couldn't even take anymore”:

Hoje o helicóptero voltou de madrugada, dezenas de famílias ficaram com suas coisas durante a noite, beirando o córrego amontoram as coisas e ficaram no sereno, uma mulher me perguntou se depois a mídia ou os polícia ia levar eles pra algum lugar, eu engoli seco e não consegui responder, ela entendeu, pois o silêncio também é uma resposta.
Não tiveram pra onde ir, ninguém veio buscar. entre uma conversa e outra, um vacilão falando que tinha muito oportinista na favela, muito cara que pegou casa sem precisar, pois já tinha seu barraco, logo foi calado pela multidão que beirava o córrego, com gritos um tiozinho chegou e falou que ninguém tava brincando de ter lucro ali não, que ninguém tava fingindo que precisava morar, que ele havia perdido tudo pro trator.
The [police] helicopter returned at dawn today, dozens of families stayed outside with their belongings overnight, near the stream, they piled up their belongings and stayed under dew, a woman asked me if the media or the police would take them somewhere afterward, I swallowed and could not answer, she understood it, because silence is also an answer.

They had nowhere to go, nobody came to pick them up. In between chats, there was this big-mouth saying that there were a lot of opportunists in the slum, a lot of people who had taken up homes without needing them because they already had shacks. He was soon shut up by the crowd bordering the stream, an old guy came and told him that nobody there was playing around to make profit, nobody was pretending they needed to live there, he had lost everything under the bulldozer.

Photo: Ferréz, used with permission

Photo: Ferréz, used with permission

The majority of opinions on twitter were in sympathy with the evicted people, like @fefoguimaraes, who tweeted that the eviction “was an affront to human dignity” and tweeted to the Mayor's Secretary asking where the families would go.

UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik, who is from São Paulo, wrote on her blog [pt]

As imagens do despejo mostram a urgência de tratarmos a questão de moradia de forma definitiva. São mães com crianças de colo, idosos e trabalhadores que não terão alternativa para onde ir e podem acabar na rua.

The images of the eviction show the urgency of taking care of the housing question in a definitive way. There are mothers with their children on their laps, elderly and workers who do not have anywhere to go and will end up homeless.
Photo: Ferréz, used with permission

Photo: Ferréz, used with permission

Panóptico wrote criticizing the state of São Paulo [pt] and its advertising newly published on the media, only a day after the eviction, of its social housing project, whose tagline is “In the State of São Paulo, we do it. And we do it well”:

Mas num ponto a propaganda é bem verdadeira. Como todos nós vimos ontem, a tropa de choque e os tratores sempre funcionam: “No Estado de São Paulo é assim: A gente faz. E faz bem feito”

Se o governo seguir sua “política de habitação popular”, como observado na desapropriação do prédio do INSS, depois da expulsão das famílias de suas casas, virão as ordens para que a polícia toque o povo da rua. É o governo de SP sempre inovando: desaloja o desalojado.

But on one point the ad is really true. As we all saw yesterday, the riot police and bulldozers always work well: “In the State of São Paulo, we do it. And we do it well”.

If the government follows its own “social housing policy”, as we observed in the Social Security building eviction [affecting 400 families in June], after the eviction of families from their homes, the police will impose a curfew. It is the government of São Paulo always innovating: displacing the homeless.

Some disagreed, stating that private property is to be respected above all else, like Xico commenting on Panóptico [pt] who said:

Pra começo de conversa, não deveriam ter ocupado uma área particular, ociosa ou não. Além disso, a prefeitura ofereceu abrigo às famílias, que se recusaram a aceitar. Finalmente, oferecer uma política habitacional NÃO significa fornecer suporte à invasão de propriedade privada.

Não estou dizendo que essas famílias mereçam morar na rua. Estou dizendo que elas estão indo pelo caminho errado. Parte da responsabilidade é, sim, do governo, mas a responsabilidade pessoal pesa muito nessas horas. Não se pode esperar que o governo apóie esse tipo de atitude fornecendo infra-estrutura a pessoas que não têm o direito de estar ali pra começo de conversa.

They should not have occupied private property, whether it was unproductive or not, to start with. In addition, the city council offered shelter to the families, who refused to accept. Finally, offering a housing policy does NOT mean supporting the invasion of private property.

I'm not saying that these families deserve to live on the streets. I'm saying they are going about it the wrong way. Part of the responsibility is, indeed, the government's, but personal liability weighs a lot in situations like this. You can not expect the government to support this kind of attitude by providing infrastructure for people who do not have the right to be there to begin with.

Photo by Ferréz, used with permission

Photo by Ferréz, used with permission

Little Star Shining disagrees with the point of view above, saying she has no words to describe the news [pt] of this “brutal, violent, absurd eviction of these families”

Cabe então refletimos, afinal o que é uma àrea ocupada (ou “invadida” como pronuncia pejorativamente nossa brilhante mídia)???
Vamos lá…
Uma àrea para ser ocupada tem que ser primeiramente uma àrea inativa, sem uso… ou seja, não tem ninguém morando, nenhum imóvel, nem fábrica, plantação, nada! A premissa é que ela não esteja em nenhuma forma de uso, afinal não dá pra ocupar uma casa de alguém está morando, por exemplo, apenas casas abandonadas, concordam?? Com a àrea é a mesma coisa… ela está lá imensa, abandonada e sem uso. Até que um grupo de pessoas, geralmente organizadas em movimentos de sem-tetos ou sem-terra, resolvem ocupar aquela àrea e dra uso à ela. […]

Agora a indignação é você ainda crer que o governo, justiça, polícia ou seja qual for a instituição Estatal reguladora de poder, visa atender o povo!!!! Oraaaa… não caia nessa!

It is high time we reflected: after all what is a squatted area (or “invaded” as pejoratively spelled out by our brilliant media)??
Let's see…
For an area to be squatted it must first be an inactive, unused area… that is to say, an area where nobody lives, no properties or plant, plantations, nothing! The premise is that it has not been used in any way, after all, you can not squat a house with someone living in it, only abandoned houses, correct? With an area, it is the same… It is there huge, abandoned and unused. Until a group of people, usually an organized movements of homeless and landless people, decide to take that area and use to it. […]
Now it is outrageous that you still believe that the government, justice, police or whatever the established State regulatory power, aims to serve the people!! Ahhh… don't fall for this!

There are some more chilling photos of the eviction available on freelance photojournalist Anderson Barbosa's Flickr account.

Photo by Ferrez, used with permission.

Photo by Ferrez, used with permission.

Written in collaboration with Paula Góes.

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