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Starved of National Media Coverage, Student Occupation Movement in Central Brazil Encounters Strong Police Response

Secundaristas em luta em Goiás. Foto: Reprodução/Youtube

High school students protesting in Goiás state. Screencap: Youtube

For the past week, there's been a slew of reports about threats and police violence in schools in the Brazilian state of Goiás (near the federal capital in Brasília), where high schoolers have occupied buildings since late last year.

On January 14, a local court in Goiás ordered the repossession of three schools in the state capital of Goiânia and the city of Anápolis. The students say they were violently ejected from the schools by police with the help of some students’ parents and the school administration. Most of the occupy demonstrators were between the ages of 13 and 16.

The students were protesting against a government plan to transfer up to 30% of the administration of the schools to private organizations (called OS, or Social Organizations) and the military police. (In Brazil, some secondary schools are run by the armed forces or the police—a policy many educators strongly condemn.) In September, the Committee of the UN Children's Rights issued a report on Brazil stating concern about the presence of the private and military sectors in the country's basic education system.

Inspired by the student movement of São Paulo (which managed to repeal a government measure that would have closed an estimated 90 schools), youths in Goiás began to occupy their schools late last year. Unlike the mobilization in São Paulo, however, the movement in Goiás received little coverage in the national press, with attention restricted to social networks and local media.

Caricatura da secretária de educação de Goiás Raquel Teixeira que mandou cortar a água e a energia das escolas ocupadas e, ao ser questionada, disse "quem nunca cometeu um erro?". Imagem via Zé Ninguém.

Caricature of Goias’ secretary of education, Raquel Teixeira, who cut off the water and energy to occupied schools and, when asked, said “who never made a mistake?” Image: Zé Ninguém. Original author unknown.

On January 25, students in the city of Goiânia attending the Ismael Silva de Jesus school reported that police officers climbed over the school fence and attacked the occupiers. According to the Facebook page of Secundaristas em Luta – GO:

Nesse momento os alunos, ainda machucados, estão resistindo na porta da escola enquanto sofrem violência de pessoas da comunidade. Dois ocupantes foram ATROPELADOS na porta. E um dos estudantes que foi atropelado foi pro hospital com fratura exposta.

At this moment the students, still injured, are resisting at the school gate while suffering violence from members of the community. Two occupiers were bowled over at the door. And one of the students that was hit went to the hospital with an exposed fracture.

One supporter of the movement, Mariana Barbosa, who also works at Federal University of Goiás, says she arrived at the school minutes after the incident. She confirmed on Facebook that students were attacked and ejected by police officers and some members of the local community. After the assault, the authorities took to a loudspeaker and announced that the 2016 school year was open for enrollment.

Barbosa said police threatened her, too, when she was helping beaten students to the local prosecutor's office, so they could file formal complaints:

Ao passarmos por uma rua um pouco mais afastada da escola e bem vazia, nossos carros foram fechados por mais três carros, sem nenhum tipo de identificação policial, nem nos veículos e muito menos uniformes ou distintivos nos policiais. Fecharam a gente, sairam de seus carros com arma na mão mandando a gente descer e colocar a mão na cabeça. Assim fizemos. Nos trataram com muita truculência. Gritaram com as crianças, não nos deixaram pegar nossos celulares para avisar o advogado, revistaram os carros, revistaram nossas bolsas, jogaram as cosias dxs meninxs no asfalto.

As we passed a pretty empty street a little farther away from the school, our cars were approached by three other cars. They didn't have any police identification—not even in the vehicles, much less on their uniforms or police badges. They approached us, left their cars with guns in their hands, and told us to pull over and put our hand on our heads. So we did. They treated us with great brutality. They shouted at the children, wouldn't let us use our phones to call a lawyer, they searched the cars, searched our bags, and tossed the kids’ stuff in the road.

In one video circulating on social media, a high school student described the police response at the Ismael Silva de Jesus college:

On January 25, police also targeted the state college Rui Barbosa, which had been occupied two days before. On the Facebook page Ocupação Rui Barbosa, students said they were expelled from the school violently.

On January 26, students from the Lyceu de Goiânia denounced a deliberate disruption of one of the school's gas pipes (the authorities were trying to sabotage the occupation).

Hoje sentimos um cheiro muito forte e quando fomos procurar o problema encontramos o cano de gás do Lyceu serrado, vazando, NA IMINÊNCIA DE UMA EXPLOSÃO. O acesso é fácil pra quem está na rua, pularam e sabotaram o encanamento.

Ainda que estivéssemos cientes da violência direta ~que já começamos a sofrer~, ainda que soubéssemos que seríamos vítimas da opressão e da ditadura marconista, não esperávamos que algo tão sério pudesse acontecer contra o movimento.

Essa situação é muito séria, colocou em risco a vida e integridade física dos ocupantes.

Today we sensed a very strong smell and when we went looking for the problem we found Lyceu's gas pipe sawed open, leaking, READY TO EXPLODE. Access [to the gas pipe] is easy for people on the street. They jumped [the wall] and sabotaged the pipe.

While we were aware of the direct violence ~that we have already begun to suffer~, and even though we knew we would be victims of oppression and marconista dictatorship [after Goiás Governor Marconi Perillo], we did not expect them to do something so serious against the movement.

This situation is very serious, putting at risk the lives and physical safety of the occupiers.

On the evening of the January 26, students protested at the headquarters of Goias Secretariat of Education (SEDUCE) and some still remain camped on site. According to the Facebook page of Zé Ninguém, who's been posting videos and photos from occupations:

Após um dia de truculência, violência policial, reintegração de posse sem órdem judicial e chegar ao extremo de TENTATIVA DE ASSASSINATO. Estudantes, professores e apoiadores colocaram um basta no autoritarismo do governo, que privatizou o ensino público sem abrir nenhum canal de dialogo ou mesmo uma audiência pública.

O prédio da SEDUCE acabou de ser OCUPADO por dezenas de pessoas!

After a day of brutality, police violence, repossession without a court order, and the extreme of a MURDER ATTEMPT, students, teachers, and supporters put a stop to government authoritarianism, which privatized public education without opening any dialogue or even a public hearing.

The building of SEDUCE has just been OCCUPIED by dozens of people!

Cano de gás do colégio serrado e oferecendo perigo de explosão e à vida dos estudantes ocupados. Imagem via perfil "Ocupação Lyceu de Goiânia", uso livre.

Gas pipe of Lyceu de Goiania college sawed. Photo: Occupation Lyceu Goiania / Facebook

Also on Facebook, Professor Rafael Saddi said that he and other teachers who support the movement are being persecuted by local police:

Só queria dizer que o delegado que está chefiando a operação, que pretende me incriminar junto com outros professores e estudantes por organização criminosa, corrupção de menores, dano ao patrimônio público e furto (me incriminar por quebrar e furtar escolas, é mole?) é o mesmo delegado que chefiou a operação 2,80.

Esta Operação 2,80 foi a que prendeu os 03 estudantes da luta pelo transporte coletivo.

I just wanted to say that the police delegate who is leading the operation aims to incriminate me along with other teachers and students, [accusing us] of [forming] a criminal organization, corrupting the youth, damaging to public property, and stealing. (Framing me for breaking into and robbing schools—can you believe it?!) This is the same delegate who led the operation 2.80, where three students were arrested in the struggle for public transportation.

The Facebook page for Secundaristas em Luta – GO denounced Goiás’ Child Protective Services based on rumors that it has been calling students’ parents and threatening them. Teachers of the UFG (Federal University of Goiás) published a statement rebuking all violence against students. On social media, many activists have expressed their support for the statement.

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