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Brazil: Rio Wears Red in Support of Firefighters

Since mid-April 2011, a movement started by a group of military firefighters from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, demanding better working conditions has been gaining increasing support.

Their frequent demonstrations [en] in front of Alerj (Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro), however, barely sensitized the governor Sergio Cabral for dialogue. Because they are considered military, their right to strike was called into question.

All the links in this post lead to Portuguese language pages, except when otherwise noted.

The category claims to receive the worst compensation in the country – in comparison with the same institution in other states – and requires a salary update, currently fixed at R $ 950.00, to $ 2,000.00. In the “Manifesto of Dignity“, published on April 14 on the blog SOS Guarda Vidas (SOS Lifeguard), four claims were noted:

Firefighters on strike in Rio de Janeiro - SOS Firefighters: worst salary in the country. Photo by Mariana Criola on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Firefighters on strike in Rio de Janeiro – SOS Firefighters: worst salary in the country. Photo by Mariana Criola on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

(…) pela redução do número de parcelas do aumento proposto pelo governo: de 48 parcelas para 12!
( …) pela equiparação da gratificação dos guarda vidas ao Bope [Batalhão de Operações Especias] e Core [Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais] (…)
A terceira reinvindicação é o auxílio transporte! (…)
A quarta reinvindicação é por melhores condições de trabalho! Não temos materiais apropriados para proteção individual; postos de salvamento adequados; (…) viaturas para ativação e desativação do serviço (…). Os Guarda Vidas do interior estão sem infraestrutura básica, sem um lugar apropriado para trabalhar, fazer suas necessidades e se alimentar. A escala (12h por 36h) é extremamente nociva à saúde, pois não possibilita, em hipótese alguma, a recuperação plena (física e emocional) desses profissionais. A exposição prolongada à radiação solar tem causado diversos problemas dermatológicos, inclusive câncer de pele. Além disso, temos lesões ortopédicas, oftálmicas e auditivas (…)!

(…) for the reduction of the number of shares in the increase proposed by the government: from 48 plots to 12!
(…) for the equality of lifeguard comfort with Bope's [Special Operations Battalion] and Core's [Coordination Office of Special Resources] (…)
The third claim is for assistance with transportation! (…)
The fourth demand is for better working conditions! We do not have appropriate materials for individual protection, adequate lifeguard stations; (…) vehicles for enabling and disabling the service (…). The lifeguards from the countryside have no basic infrastructure, no proper place to work, for personal needs and to eat. The rotation (12h for 36h) is extremely harmful to health, because it does not allow, under any circumstances, full recovery (physical and emotional) of these professionals. Prolonged exposure to solar radiation has caused many skin problems including skin cancer. Moreover, we have orthopedic, auditory and ophthalmic injuries (…)!

Finally, on June 3 (Friday), around 2pm, a massive rally of about 5,000 people gathered on the steps of Alerj before marching to the shopping heart of Rio. In the evening, about 2,000 demonstrators occupied the headquarters of the Fire Department to make sure their claim was heard.

The moment was shared in a video by Clarissa Godinho on Youtube:

A shock reaction

The chaos which spread, fueled by an anger generated by the fact that they were being ignored for a long time, immediately brought the Shock Battalion of Military Police to action. 12 hours later, in a joint operation with the BOPE, control of the headquarters was regained as well as the detention of 439 firefighters.

The moment of entry of the forces into the Central Headquarters of the Fire Department was documented by Rick Sardella on a video titled “Elite Squad 3 – BOPE vs Heroes, Women and Children”.

Red Rio Flyer featuring the main claims, on Flickr by Deputado Estadual Marcelo Freixo PSOL-RJ (CC BY 2.0)

Red Rio Flyer featuring the main claims, on Flickr by Deputado Estadual Marcelo Freixo PSOL-RJ (CC BY 2.0)

On the blog Vi o Mundo (I saw the world), an interview with the father of one of the arrested firefighters said:

Ninguém é louco de levar família com filhos para uma manifestação, pensando em confronto e baderna. Quem destruiu o quartel foi o BOPE no momento da invasão. Só não morreu ninguém por obra de Deus. Dispararam tiro de fuzil do lado de fora e gás lacrimogêneo na sala em que estavam mulheres e crianças.

Nobody is crazy enough to bring family with children to an event, thinking about confrontation and hooliganism. Those who destroyed the barracks were BOPE at the time of invasion. Only by God's work was no one killed. Rifles were shot from outside, as well as tear gas, into the room where there were women and children.

In reaction, the firefighters wrote an open letter to the population aiming to “clarify what has been taking place in the Corporation and in the State Government, and what has lead companions and their family to challenge the excesses of the General Commander Col. Peter Marco and Governor Sérgio Cabral”. It may be read on one of the first blogs that republished it, Tulio Fuzato:

Nossos militares foram presos e conduzidos aos quartéis da PMERJ como criminosos apenas por reivindicar dignidade profissional!

Our soldiers were arrested and taken to the barracks of PMERJ as criminals just for demanding professional dignity!

Open letters in support of firefighters then multiplied, including one from eight leaders, as well as a petition for the “Dignity of Carioca Firefighters“, in a movement of increasing solidarity to pressure the release of prisoners. The authorization came only on June 10.

Rio wears red

" Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy " (salmo 126.5) #RioVermelho (Red Rio) #SosBombeirosRJ (SOS Firefighters Rio de Janeiro). Photo on Twitpic by Inez (@MCInez)

" Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy " (salmo 126.5) #RioVermelho (Red Rio) #SosBombeirosRJ (SOS Firefighters Rio de Janeiro). Photo on Twitpic by Inez (@MCInez)

#RIOVERMELHO – De ontem pra hoje, vi que muitas pessoas estão se solidarizando com a causa dos bombeiros :) Todo mundo usando fitinhas vermelhas!

#RIOVERMELHO (Red Rio) From yesterday to today, I saw that many people are sympathizing with the firefighters’ cause :) Everyone using red ribbons!

Wrote Kamila Marques (@Mandhalla) on Twitter on the afternoon of June 10, while the Habeas Corpus issued by the Court of Justice of Rio de Janeiro was celebrated. With the release of the prisioners, and despite the proposal from the State Government to readjust the salary next July by 5,58%, the claims remain. According to one of the leaders of the movement, Lauro Botto, “the negotiations with the Rio government for better pay will only resume after the military arrested following the raid in central headquarters of the corporation, on Friday evening, receive amnesty from the State government”.

Cristiane Mendes (@krys_mendes) added:

Habeas Corpus não é Anistia! ATO PACÍFICO DE APOIO #BOMBEIROSRJ – domingo, 12/06, às 9hs – Copacabana http://migre.me/51IOD #riovermelho

Habeas corpus is not amnesty! Peaceful act of support #BombeirosRJ – sunday, June 12, 9am – Copacabana #riovermelho.

The “Mega Passeata” (Mega Rally), organized by SOS Bombeiros RJ, invites “those who are outraged with the low salaries and the high salaries of the governors” to participate. The call is also made in a video offered in solidarity by several artists from Globo network:

Danilo Pereira, on the blog Abordagem Policial (Police Approach), finalizes:

Vamos acompanhar, vestindo o espírito de vermelho, as manifestações dos Bombeiros do Rio. Um exemplo de união e dignidade entre militares, postura que certamente irá elevar a instituição após o êxito nas negociações.

Let's follow, wearing the red spirits, the manifestation of Rio firefighters. An example of unity and dignity among military, a stance that will surely elevate the institution after successful negotiations.

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