The Ugly Side Of Protest

Three days ago, I wrote about the protests in Brazil during the World Cup. I normally wouldn’t do a follow up story this quickly, but the situation warrants the return, I think.

On Sunday evening, a man identifying himself as a police officer fired a live round into a group of protesters in Rio de Janeiro.

This was not the only use of live ammunition in Rio that night by police; another man who said he was a police officer fired multiple live rounds into the air. And, there’s been numerous reports of police using rubber bullets and tear gas against the protesters in multiple cities, such as in Curitiba yesterday

Pedro Dantas, a spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro security secretariat that oversees all security forces, said that if authorities verify the accuracy of the video, “we’ll immediately open an investigation into the incident.” However, judging by the police’s past record in investigating its abuses, I wouldn’t expect much.

Unfortunately, violence seems to be more the norm than the exception as far as the Brazilian police goes. There’s very little oversight of the police; 2005 report said Brazil’s oversight procedures “have been an almost compete failure in bringing about police accountability,” In 2009, Human Rights Watch reported that Rio and São Paulo police together kill more than 1,000 people every year; many of them being extrajudicial executions in actuality instead of the self defense the police uses as validation. In 2008, Rio de Janeiro police arrested 23 people for every person they killed in 2008, and São Paulo police arrested 348 for every kill. Compare this to the U.S. in 2008, where 37,000 people were arrested for every person killed by the police in a confrontation.

The police aren’t the only ones who are violent, though. There’s a Black Bloc faction participating in the protests on a regular basis. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see how a clash between these two groups could spiral out of control quickly.

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