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Brazil: Barbeque as Protest in São Paulo

A new kind of protest has become an internet “hit” in Brazil, promoted by a new social class: the “different people” who participated in a churrascão (big barbeque).

The protest was in response to the withdrawal of permission by the government of Sao Paulo to build a subway station in Higienópolis [pt], following a petition signed by  3,500 residents from the upscale neighborhood of the capital of Sao Paulo. Note: All the links in this post lead to Portuguese language posts except when otherwise noted.

The news caused outrage among the citizens of Sao Paulo and the case was widely discussed on Twitter, becoming a trending topic with the hashtags #Higienopolis and #GenteDiferenciada (different people). The terms spread on the web after the publication of an interview suggesting that the subway would lead to the arrival of “drug addicts, beggars, a different people, promoting the degradation of its sacred streets and increasing the number of police incidents.”

A communal barbeque in protest against the neighborhood elite [en] was promptly organized on Facebook, and in two days more than 55,000 people accepted the invitation to participate:

Barbecue of the different people
When: Saturday, May 14
Where: In front of Higienópolis Mall
Schedule: 2pm
Dress code: Different
*Bring beach chairs, cachaça [en], farofa [en], portable sound system, and anything you want. Mulata women smothered in tanning oil will be welcome.

José Serra, former governor of São Paulo and former presidential candidate, from the right-wing party Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), at a Churrascão barbeque. Photo by Flick user Mark Hillary (CC BY 2.0).

José Serra, former governor of São Paulo and former presidential candidate, from the right-wing party Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), at a Churrascão barbeque. Photo by Flick user Mark Hillary (CC BY 2.0).

The description of the photo on Flickr, questioned the government's decision:

“Prevaleceu o bom senso”, declarou o presidente da entidade Defenda Higienópolis, o empresário Pedro Ivanow.

Como nosso bom senso não é o forte, promoveremos agora um churrascão em frente ao shopping Higienópolis para mostrar que os ricos não chegam aos pobres, mas os pobres sim, facilmente chegam aos ricos.

Leve farofa, carne de gato, cachorro, papagaio, som portátil, carro tunado e tudo o que sua consciência social permitir. Afinal, a rua é pública e o Higienópolis não está separado por muros.

“Common sense has prevailed, ” said the President of the association Defenda Higienópolis, businessman Peter Ivanow.

As our common sense is not too good, we will now put on a big barbeque in front of the Higienópolis mall to show that the wealthy do not reach the poor, but poor people do so easily reach the wealthy.

Take farofa, cat's meat, dogs, parrots, boomboxes, pimped-out cars and everything that your social conscience allows. After all, the street is public and Higienópolis is not walled off.

According to journalist Danilo Saraíva, the creator of the event on Facebook, the idea of a barbeque started as a practical joke against abusive elitism but ended up representing “the response of a population that says enough already!:

Antes de mais nada: não houve organização. Outra afirmação que causa contestação aos odiadores de plantão. Como é possível que um evento tão organizado e pacífico tenha sido comandado apenas pela iniciativa do povo, que não tem nome?

Eu não faço “pobrismos” – ainda que eu questione este termo -, nem acredito que aqueles presentes o fazem. O Churrascão serviu para mostrar que a população paulista quer dizer basta. Basta ao elitismo, basta de trânsito, basta de violência, basta de antisemitismo, basta de homofobia, basta de achar que os pobres (ou os que se acham pobres) serão menos ouvidos do que uma elite ensurdecedora.

First of all: there was no organization. Just another statement that leaves the haters uneasy. How could such an organized and peaceful event have been controlled only by the people's initiative, with no name attached?

I do not do pobrismos” [the glorification of the poor] – even though I question this term – neither do I believe that those who went use this term. The Churrascão served to show that the Brazilian population wants to say enough. Enough elitism, enough traffic jams, enough violence, enough anti-Semitism, enough homophobia, enough thinking that the poor (or those who think they are poor) will be heard less than a deafening elite.

Maria Frô blogged as soon as she arrived home:

Manifestação irreverente, criativa, com a cara de uma parcela da juventude paulistana de classe média: bem vestidos, bem-humorados e acima de tudo bem informados e conscientes de que para a cidade melhorar para todos, todos têm de se envolver e lutar por boas causas. […]

Encontrei também muitos moradores do bairro Higienópolis que têm consciência que a cidade é de todos. Conversei com vários deles, uma senhora que vive há 35 anos em Higienópolis, dona Marivone, 80 anos, disse que nunca viu nada igual no bairro e ela estava lá participando da manifestação e se divertindo com a moçada. […]

Já participei de muitas manifestações em algumas fui queimada com gás de pimenta. Mas em Higienópolis não houve qualquer violência e vi jovens questionando os policiais de modo bem incisivo que em uma manifestação da periferia os moradores não ousariam fazer. Mas os policiais permaneceram na maior calma, educadíssimos, como gostaríamos de ver toda a polícia.

An irreverent, creative protest looking like a portion of the middle class youth from Sao Paulo: well dressed, in a good mood and above all well informed and aware that in order to make the city to be better for everyone, everyone must get involved and fight for good causes. […]

I also met many residents of the Higienópolis neighborhood who are aware that the city belongs to everyone. I talked with several of them, a lady who has lived in Higienópolis for 35 years, Ms. Marivone, 80 years old, who said that she had never seen anything like it in the neighborhood and she was there attending the event and having fun with the guys. […]

I have attended many demonstrations; in some I got pepper sprayed. But there was no violence in Higienópolis and I saw the young people questioning police in an incisive way that that in a demonstration in the periphery, residents wouldn't dare to. But the police remained mostly calm, super well behaved, as we would like to see all police.

The event was also broadcasted live online by the citizen reporter Thiago de Araújo:

A matter of class – and mobility

Journalist Thalita Pires pointed out on her blog Desafios Urbanos (Urban Challenges):

Quando só os cidadãos ricos e influentes são ouvidos, fica clara a assimetria da democracia na cidade.

When only the wealthy and influential citizens are heard, the asymmetry of democracy in the city becomes clear.

She writes of her hope that the reaction against the decision to withdraw the construction of the subway station would provide “a counterbalance to the local residents’ expectations”. Following the massive support to the event scheduled on Facebook, the governor's reaction didn't take long:

Com o Churrascão, conseguimos também que o Ministério Público investigasse as intenções por trás do cancelamento da estação de metrô na Avenida Angélica e até um pronunciamento oficial do governador Geraldo Alckmin.

With Churrascão, we also managed to make the prosecutors investigate the reasons behind the cancellation of the subway station in Avenida Angelica, and we even got an official statement from the governor Geraldo Alckmin.
Profile picture of Gente Diferenciada on Facebook showing the hypothetical subway station.

Profile picture of Gente Diferenciada on Facebook showing the hypothetical subway station.

The issue of mobility inside the megalopolis was raised on the Facebook page of the event:

O metrô, hoje, não atende a necessidade de quem mora nesta cidade. O transporte público é risível. Ônibus lotados a tarifas absurdas, veículos em situação precária, falta de corredores, atrasos em obras, acidentes, são apenas algumas das situações que tornam São Paulo ainda mais caótica do que ela deveria ser, graças ao seu número de habitantes.

The subway, nowadays, does not meet the need of those who live in this city. Public transportation is laughable. Crowded buses for absurd fares, vehicles in states of precariousness, lack of car lanes, delays in construction, accidents are just some of the situations that make Sao Paulo even more chaotic than it should be, thanks to its [large] population.

On the blog Imprença, the petition was compared to the project Movimento Passe Livre (Free Pass Movement), which gathered about 3 thousand people in protest for the reduction of the bus ticket prices in Sao Paulo promoted by students who even got to be attacked by the police, as Global Voices reported early this year.

O resultado? Muitas passeatas, uma audiência pública marcada e desmarcada, prisões, etc. Diminuiu o preço? Não. […] Aí o pessoal do bairro de Higienópolis {{que sim, vem de Higiene}} reuniu 3 500 ASSINATURAS, sem ninguém sair de casa… o governador resolveu fazer o quê?! CANCELOU a estação de metrô do local.

The result? Many marches, a scheduled and unscheduled public hearing, detentions, etc.. Did the price drop? No. […] So the people from the neighborhood Higienópolis {{yes, it does come from Hygiene}} gathered 3500 SIGNATURES without anyone leaving home … The governor decided to do what?! He CANCELED the subway station of the place.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Urbanist, Raquel Rolnik shared her opinion on her blog:

a questão fundamental nisso tudo é a forma como se dá todo o processo de decisão sobre as novas linhas e estações: estas vão sendo anunciadas e desanunciadas sem nenhum planejamento estável – aliado a uma estratégia urbanística pactuada coletivamente na cidade – e, portanto, ao sabor das pressões dos interesses que conseguem ter acesso à mesa de decisão.

The main issue in all this is the way in which the whole decision process is made, concerning new stations and lines: they keep being announced and unannounced without stable planning coupled with an urban strategy collectively agreed upon in the city. And therefore with the taste of pressure by the [special] interests that can get to the decision-making table.
Churrasco ambulante (Walking barbecue). Photo by Luís Eduardo Catenacci, shared on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Churrasco ambulante (Walking barbeque). Photo by Luís Eduardo Catenacci, shared on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Amanda Rossi, Janet Gunter, Paula Góes and Raphael Tsavkko Garcia collaborated in this post. The English version was proofread by Janet Gunter.


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