A riveting person account from a libcom poster in Vitória with updates on the protest movement which has swept Brazil, as demonstrations have begun to turn into wildcat strikes, occupations and direct action.
I thought I wouldn't have much else to tell about the current wave of protests around Brazil, but things keep happening and new qualities are joining what's already happening. I can only speak for myself and my short-sighted perceptions, so if anybody can correct me or write down some more consistent opinions, I'll be glad to learn.
Across the country, this past week had its usual street marches, much, much less crowded compared to the ones two weeks ago, and I thought they would be over soon. Other than this, there were bus and truck driver's strikes in some cities, which caused significant delays in transportation. On July 1, something really bizarre took place: an ordinary guy decided to invite the country for a general strike from Facebook, without any connection to unions or whatever, and more than half a million people signed it. However, being a mere Facebook event, it confused many people. I myself didn't give it much attention, even though my bosses at work seemed a bit excited about the possibility of such an event, and I really didn't expect anything unusual on Monday. But my brother didn't go to work, a few commercial places were kept closed (I can only talk about my own city), and many schools decided not to open. It was really, really bizarre.
Speaking of general strike, on July 11 the biggest Brazilian unions, CUT, Força, UGT, CGTB, etc., are calling for a day of protests, strikes, marches and more in order to push for their own agenda with many items, including the reduction of work hours from 44 to 40 a week. I think it's going to be a big day, as hopefully there will be lots of people on the streets. Everyday I'm hearing of new professional categories joining the general strike.
I don't know very well what's going on in the main cities of the country, but in Vitória the latest protests focused a big part of their attention to a very specific situation: the toll fees we have to pay to use the main bridge connecting Vitória to Vila Velha (see photo, above). It's a very important connection, and not only is it to cross it, but it also causes a lot of congestion in very important parts of both cities, as it's not on the outskirts, but in quite central areas.
Two weeks ago, on the biggest march of all, all the toll booths were smashed by protesters, and the company responsible for its operation was forced to let traffic through without charging anything (they tried to charge the prices manually and even advised drivers to avoid using the bridge), so people had the chance to experience the crossing without the annoyance of paying for it and I guess it opened the path for new hopes. I'm probably exaggerating it, but that's how I felt, I can't deny.
Anyway, somehow, one day, it started to spread the news that there was a project to be voted on the State's Legislative Assembly that could eliminate the need to pay the toll of the bridge, and all attentions then turned to the deputies in the Assembly. I really cannot tell the real nature of this decree, as it all came too sudden and I couldn't find reliable material on it, to know if it's really, really possible to do what it says, as the company in charge of the bridge (Rodosol) would never accept such a thing peacefully, but the thing is: on the day the project was to be voted, the Legislative Assembly was packed with people aggressively watching on all politicians in there.
When it was the time to vote it, though, the first one to speak said they needed more time to consider it, and so the voting was postponed. The people watching became really angry, broke doors and invaded the House Presidency Office, keeping an occupation in there since then. They said they'll only leave it when the project is voted. Politicians said they'll only vote it if the office gets freed. People are taking food and more stuff to the occupiers every day.
Yesterday there was a new march from both Vitória and Vila Velha, set to reunite on the Legislative Assembly, which is right next to the bridge of discontent. I couldn't go there, but people say the arrival at the occupation gave everybody a great sense of unity, even though there were just about 2,000 people in the crowd. They then marched to the toll booths, now heavily guarded by the police, and amazingly five toll booths got smashed again, even with all the police repression that took place. In fact, police brutality is again pissing everybody, probably because now that there are less people on the streets, they have to make sure to kill the movement once and for all, even though police violence has always been there anyway. You can read a short description of yesterday's drama on this link.
The most amazing thing yesterday is that the police started forcing some of the people to cross the bridge, speeding them up with a rain of tear gas canisters, surrounding them and even turning the lights off in the middle of the bridge!
They then began searching people, erasing photos, harassing others and the usual police stuff. So now it remains to be seen what will happen in Vitória in the next days, as there will be new marches next week, on the same day of the general strike, and people will certainly keep trying to push for the scrapping of the bridge's toll fee.
This blog entry was originally a comment in our forum thread on the Brazil riots here and has been lightly edited by libcom to turn it into blog format.