While Brazil plays, democracy is the one in play. State of emergency during the Footbal World Cup.

Report of Advogados Ativistas (Activist Lawyers) and Observadores Legais (Legal Observers), 23rd of June, São Paulo - “11° ato #NAOVAITERCOPA vai ter protesto” (“11º demostration #THEREWILLBENOWORLDCUP there will be protest”).

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Tropa de Braço (police special task force for demonstrations), Tropa de Choque (riot police), Military Police Cavalry and regular police fence in the protest.

Tropa de Braço (police special task force for demonstrations), Tropa de Choque (riot police), Military Police Cavalry and regular police fence in the protest.

Protest meeting

Even before the protest had started, when protesters where gathering, there was an enormous deployment of Security Forces; Military Police and several plainclothes policemen where carrying firearms. Around 15:15, the square Praça do Ciclista (right in the heart of the city) was completely fenced in. The siege of the Military forces was previously planned and set up a terrifying and threatening stage which had a clear aim: generate fear among population through emotional manipulation. 

The atmosphere was incredibly tense since the São Paulo State Governor promised there will be an increase in repression after the last demonstration. Such declarations provoked a panic environment which made complicated the meeting. Over 40 horsemen of Military Police Cavalry, hundreds policemen  of Tropa de Choque (riot police) and Tropa de Braço (an special force of Military Police trained in diverse martial arts to restrain and immobilize protesters) supported by some other military task forces, all of them conspicuously armed,  surrounded the meeting point, in a fighting stance. 

Such military apparatus mobilized for the demonstration illustrates how far we are from the “democratic police” concept and how close we lie to the “police state” instead. We could witness a unapproachable police, closed to dialogue and overwhelmingly partial, considering every protester as a potential threat and therefore, should be treated as a criminal, suppressing his/her liberties and guarantees. 

Unlike the previous protest, this time there were several investigators from DEIC (Departamento Estadual de Investigações Criminais or State Department of Criminal Investigations), a unit within of Civil Police created by São Paulo State to fight criminal gangs which is currently running a specific investigation over demonstrations and other political events. 

The siege.

Around 16:20, the protest was completely enclosed. In Consolação Avenue, the Tropa de Braço made an isolation police line, any citizen wanting to enter the Paulista Avenue –either protester or passer-by- could be randomly frisked randomly forced to walk through a police passageway.   

Legal Observers (OL), Activist Lawyers (AA) and protesters asked the police about the reason they were being frisked and the rule they were following to do so. Policemen eloquently answered: “if someone is carrying a rucksack, he looks like a protester; therefore he will be frisked”. (Material recorded on video).

Once more, we saw Military Police creating their own street law, establishing what means “founded suspicion” (art 244 of Code of Criminal Procedure), according to the political needs of each moment. 

Observadores Legais as police target.

The 40 OL, easily recognizable for their reflective vests, tried to spread out to cover all the protest’s flanks. Outside the enclosure, far from cameras and protesters’ views, some observers were restrained and frisked by the police when they were recording police unlawful actions. Those frisks were absolutely arbitrary and contravened the law; moreover they took place after some observers pointed out the lack of the due identification of police officers

Watch the video which shows how police decided to frisk the Observers: 

Lawyer shows his professional license to watch the frisk of an OL.

Lawyer shows his professional license to watch the frisk of an OL.

During the frisk, police took an special attention, to confiscate Observers’ mobile phones which already had recorded material.  Due to this strange an intimidating frisk, an observer asked the AA for help. When the first lawyer arrived, he was immediately put against a wall when he was handing his professional license. A second lawyer arrived and tried to help but police prevented him from providing legal assistance by shoves and verbal aggressions. 

After identifying himself as a lawyer, police impeded his defense work and put him against a wall.

After identifying himself as a lawyer, police impeded his defense work and put him against a wall.

The depicted scene attracted media attention that was also prevented from recording the flagrant abuses that were being committed against observers and lawyers when they were doing their jobs. After being fenced in, far from any camera, the police officer who started the frisks accused one of the observers for carrying drugs, trying this way to criminalize the collective’s work.  

The previous narration portrays a deliberate tentative of a campaign of discredit Observadores Legais and Advogados Ativistas’ reputation by clearly repressive and intimidating means. The arrested observer was released some hours later with no further major incidents.

Along the whole event we witness and incredible theatric performance set in a surrealist scenography of multitudes of policemen dressed up to combat in a war against (by that time) 50 protesters. 

The demonstration.

The demonstration was pacific until the end. There were not incidents or clashes until the moment protesters were leaving the streets heading home. Non-identified civil police cowardly and illegally arrested two people when they were taking the subway. 

.As if unfounded detentions were not enough, a plainclothes police officer member of the DEIC, shot into the air twice to terrorize protesters and create a confusion atmosphere, right in the middle of São Paulo’s main avenue. This episode makes us reflect on the unequal treatment police and regular citizens receive for shooting into the air for no reason: a random citizen will be committing a crime whereas society has already accepted any kind of arbitrariness coming from security forces.

The use of firearms in demonstrations may be used only when strictly necessary, when other less harmful means cannot be used and must be done in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, conforming the international law and standards on use of force of security bodies carrying out police duties. The aforesaid rules expressly ban the use of firearms to disperse a peaceful demonstration. This means that security agencies must first be properly identified as such and should negotiate with demonstrators. If negotiations fail, the security forces should then warn that they will be using force and give enough time so the warning can be considered. None of abovementioned was respected. Every mean to “restore the order” did not respect Human Rights or prerogatives contained in the Constitution. 

All the abuses registered along the demonstration clearly show the reiterative attacks to human dignity and the law itself, constantly recalled by police to justify their actions. Practical effects from those practices are immediate: decrease of trusting in police, isolation of police from society, raise of civil and critics from the international community and media.  

In spite of the described facts, we still expect an ethical treatment from the police. Thus, we expect police’s behavior meets the basic notion of – a respectful and dignified treatment will arouse the same response. 

Popular demonstrations are based on people’s wittiness and activists’ abilities to organize themselves and articulate their demands. Violations of the most basic constitutional principles happen when the police disrupts this process by intimidating, delimiting space and time of the length or the protest, controlling protesters freedom of movement and above all, using violent and disproportionate repression. Protesting is not a crime, not yet.  

Trust in police lies in their ability to manage conflicts with neutrality. What we observe was a political police that was acting unlawfully and serving political and economical interests of third agents but no society’s concerns. A Government that, by utilizing its police, instead of protecting citizens’ rights, limits their freedom, it is not a legitimate government but misgovernment. 

Violent approaching to protesters, policemen not wearing the due identification, unfounded and illegal detentions and tortures in the darkness of police offices do take place. There is not respect at all for those lawyers who question and fight such practices. If they try to help the detainees, they end up being frisked themselves in the exercise of their profession and they are not even informed to the place of detention of the prisoners. 

The people works in self-management when protesting and protect themselves however they can by assuming roles such as legal observers or first aid volunteers, replacing Government’s duties, since they have been neglected in order to prioritize repression.  

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