19 Jun 2013

Brazil protests: ‘the people have decided enough is enough’

Recent protests in Brazil saw 200,000 people take to the streets. British citizen Dominic Parry was in Rio and says he had a “responsibility to protest” against the government’s waste of public funds.

Scene of the Rio di Janeiro protest on 16 June

Rio de Janeiro awoke on Tuesday to scenes of violence and vandalism being broadcast on its main television channels, writes Dominic Parry.

Scenes which were recorded but not broadcast live on the country’s most influential channel, Globo, which opted to instead broadcast its regular soap opera while one of the most historical events of recent years took place on the streets of Brazil.

Scenes which can be condemned, but which can also be explained somewhat by a bottomless list of government shortfalls, including a complete lack of investment in infrastructure, health and education.

For so long now, Brazilian’s top politicians have seen virtually no punishment whatsoever for the liberties they have taken

And the government’s blatant ignorance of the needs of the Brazilian people in favour of securing international investment contracts and sports events such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

Scenes which don’t really help to explain what is really happening in Rio de Janeiro.

Read more: Brazil hit by violent protests in eight cities

Living ‘under the mask’

Dominic Parry

I took part in the mass demonstration in the city centre.

I’m 26, British and I’ve been living in Rio de Janeiro for the last two and a half years. My wife and I are currently trying to start a business here.

I’ve been living in Brazil for a while. Long enough to realise a few things beyond the initial charm of this beautiful country. Only after starting to really live my life here – and by that, I mean working, using public transport, needing the public health service, driving, dealing with any public body whatsoever, watching countless news stories about corrupt politicians being openly absolved of their crimes – have I been able to see under the mask.

I think it’s my responsibility to protest, to represent those who can’t, and to show my personal indignation over the farce that is the use of public funds here, and over the continued violence, direct or otherwise, towards the citizens of this supposed democracy.

‘Rio has woken up’

We occupied the entirety of Rio Branco street, from the church of Candelária to Cinelândia square – more or less the space occupied by the famous Bola Preta street party that happens during carnival, and which is said to attract, by the accounts of the same local media, up to one million people. The local media’s estimation of 100,000 protesters is a little shy of the real number, I believe.

Only after starting to really live my life here… have I been able to see under the mask

However numerous we were, the sentiment last night was clear: the people have decided that enough is enough. They are comforted to know that in fact their opinion is far from isolated, and want to do something about it.

The atmosphere during the entire protest from Candelária to Cinelândia was completely peaceful and even uplifting when rousing choruses of “Rio has woken up” were accompanied by office workers who showed their support by throwing handfuls of shredded white paper into the crowd and hanging banners from their windows high above us to show their support.

Read more: Do anti-austerity protests make a difference?

Violent scenes

A small number of people made their way to the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro to manifest their pent-up frustration in a more physical and direct way. This lead to the aforementioned violent scenes we are seeing today.

I do not believe in the effectiveness of such a manifestation, along with the vast majority who didn’t partake in the violence (some even turned up there today to help with the general clean-up). However I do see its symbolic significance.

Along with the other vastly peaceful protests throughout the city and Brazil, this shows that people here will no longer accept a government that, in its constant abuse of public funds and shameless manipulation of the lower classes that it depends on to stay in power, does not respond to the needs of the population.

For so long now, Brazilian’s top politicians have seen virtually no punishment whatsoever for the liberties they have taken.

However with the next general protest in Brazil planned for Thursday in Rio and constantly gaining steam, there will be some sleepless nights this week among Brazil’s political elite, and for good reason.

As the hashtag of so many so many social media posts this afternoon describes, the giant has awoken (#oGiganteAcordou).

And it’s not going back to sleep any time soon.