It may be that you have heard of what has been happening here in Brazil for the past couple of weeks. If so, maybe this journal will give you further information. If not, I hope to give you a fairly detailed and impartial eyes-on account of what has been going on.
Despite Brazil becoming a stronger economic power every day, it has been suffering a series of problems; corrupt politicians, a huge gap between the extremely rich and the extremely poor, a severely lacking infrastructure, unacceptable traffic jams and - the spark that lit this gunpowder keg - increasing fares for public transportation.
For the last two years, the bus / train / subway fare was R$3.00 (US$1.50). However, due to unnecessary inflation, the price went up R$0.20 (US$0.10) in late May and early June. Granted, this is not a HUGE increase in the cost of using public transport (especially because the fare rose LESS than it should have with the inflation we had), but it was enough to cause a stir. On June 6th, the "Movimento Passe Livre" (hereby referred to as the MPL for brevity) organized a protest on the Paulista Avenue here in Sao Paulo to get the bus fare reduced once more.
According to the police, 2000 people went to the streets. According to the MPL, 6000 people went. Either way, this protest was marked because of the amount of vandalism that occurred. Bank windows were shattered, busses were sprayed with paint and some people got hurt. The official number is that 2 policemen and 8 protesters got injured. 15 protesters were arrested for public vandalism (of which 9 were released within a few hours).
June 7th marked the second protest day. This time, 5000 people went to the streets to protest. However, this second protest came to blows a lot faster: the repairs for all the public damage is estimated at over US$50,000, where subway stations were vandalized, two busses were torched with molotov cocktails and barricades of flaming tires were set up on Paulista Avenue. This protest was met with a moderate amount of police brutality where riot shield policemen were dispatched to stop the vandalism. It was here, and on the third protest, where the fight was no longer about the price of the public transport fares.
The third protest was on June 11th, the week after the first two protests. 5000 people attended according to the MPL and 2000 according to the police. During this protest, the people tried a peaceful approach and greeted the police with chants of "sem violencia" ("no violence"). The difference was that, this time, the police arrived with riot shields, shooting rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd without much reason. The third protest caused a large ripple on the internet, when photos and videos spread all over youtube and facebook; videos showing police spraying pepper spray at people who presented no threat (tv cameraman, specifically), a policeman shattering the window of his own police car to justify his acts of police brutality and a newspaper reporter having been shot in the eye by a rubber bullet.
There were even reports of police shooting a tear fas canister into the 7th floor of an apartment building on Paulista Avenue and police dragging a protester out of a hospital to beat him on the street; this protester was taking care of a wounded friend.
Two days later, the fourth protest happened. 5000 people attended according to the police. 20000 according to the MPL. People were no longer upset solely about the prices of public transport. They were furious about police brutality, higher bus fare, politicians who let all this happen, the World Cup of next year getting an insane investment with many projects still incomplete, amongst other things. The fourth protest was also marked with violence: 105 injured protesters, 18 injured policemen and 15 injured protesters. By this point, police were confiscating vinegar and the simple possession of it was enough to be seen as suspicious, due to the belief that vinagre helps fight off the effects of tear gas. The continuing police brutality and lack of resolution let to the planning of the largest protest yet: the fifth protest that happened yesterday.
After these events, Brazilians all over were outraged. Promises of protests in other cities were made and support for the protest was shown abroad in New York, Dublin and Berlin, for example. On facebook, a whopping 270,000 people confirmed their participation at the fifth protest. Naturally, nowhere near that many people would actually go, but it still happened.
Protests happened in 12 capital cities all over Brazil, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte and Salvador. All over Brazil, more than 200,000 people went; over 65,000 in Sao Paulo alone. SP's protest was peaceful enough, no tear gas or police brutality. Rio and Belo Horizonte suffered that, though. In Brasilia, protesters climbed to the roof of the national congress. The official numbers for the largest protests, according to the press, are as follows: 10,000 in Salvador, 15,000 in Belo Horizonte, 100,000 in Rio de Janeiro, 65,000 in Sao Paulo, 5000 in Brasilia and 10,000 in Curitiba.
More details are still coming out and I'll update this journal as more information comes out, but it is already hard to believe: people are getting up to show their anger. There have not been protests of this magnitude in Brazil since people demanded Ex-president Collor's impeachment in 1992.
There could be no better time for such protests. President Dilma heard people booing her as she opened the confederates cup, the pre-world cup tournament. Maybe as all eyes turn on Brazil for the World Cup and Olympics, the struggle of the people will be heard and our government will be under enormous pressure to change for the better.