Brazilian Artists and Activists Attacked During World Cup

Police attacking #OcupeEstelita activists in Recife, Brazil. Photo: Leo Falcão, via Facebook.
Police attacking #OcupeEstelita activists in Recife, Brazil. Photo: Leo Falcão, via Facebook.

While the home team was tying with Mexico on June 17 during World Cup action, Brazilian military police were violently subduing protesters, who included a number of artists, in Recife, the country’s fifth-largest city, reports Hyperallergic.

Activists have spent the last month camped out at the site of the controversial Novo Recife development project at the José Estelita Pier that would replace historic warehouses with no less than a dozen 45-story residential and commercial highrises. Protestors believe the massive project will negatively affect the historic neighborhood and the city as a whole, and allege that corruption was at play during the approval process.

Demolition of the warehouses began on May 21, but a group quickly organized under the moniker #OcupeEstelita, and developers soon agreed to halt construction and enter negotiations. Things came to a head Tuesday at 5 a.m. as military police, armed with tear gas and rubber bullets, attacked the peaceful activists for refusing to disperse.

Among the approximately 50 protestors were Jonathas de Andrade, an artist included in the Guggenheim’s recently opened exhibition “Under the Same Sun,” part of the UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Also on hand were filmmaker Leo Falcão and artist Cristiano Lenhardt. The latter described the situation on social media in a comment forwarded to Hyperallergic by Zanna Gilbert, a postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Modern Art who has been closely following events in Brazil:

Imagine all your friends, those that work with art and culture and so on, many thoughtful people, thoughtful professionals, taking a hit from a rubber bullet and pepper spray in the face. it is inadmissible. We are fighting against the powerful and the “bosses” that destroy the city’s culture, they are imprisoned by greed.

Reportedly, four of the protesters were arrested. Many have posted Instagram photos documenting injuries suffered at the hands of the police.

An #OcupeEstelita protestor's wounds from rubber bullets. Photo: @damaia via Instagram.

An #OcupeEstelita protestor’s wounds from rubber bullets. Photo: @damaia via Instagram.

The #OcupeEstelita movement is just one facet of Brazil’s political unrest. The approach of the World Cup competition was marked by a proliferation of anti-FIFA murals that alluded to what is seen as the government’s neglect of the poor and homeless while millions are spent on a sporting event that evicted native peoples in order to build a new stadium (see report from the Guardian).

According to the Guardian, #OcupeEstelita returned to the pier on June 18. The actions of Brazilian police have been condemned by Amnesty International Brazil for the use of excessive force.

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