Remember in 1988, when South Korea's military dictator created slave-labor camps and kidnapped thousands of homeless children to work in them?
Or more recently, when Londoners got surface to air missile embankments on the roofs of their apartment blocks, and the public roads were denied to the public, but opened to sponsors and their cronies?
Well, it's four years since London, and Rio gets to avail itself of new, nasty surveillance and control technology. Combine that with a recent coup and literally lethal crackdowns on demonstrations and civil society, and we're heading into a hell of an Olympic season.
But if you ask the city's protesters, high school students and favela residents, “safety, peace, celebration and joy” are the last thing on their minds. There is little appetite for the Olympics, as seen in signs at occupied schools and community organizing in favelas in response to forced removals to make way for Olympics facilities. Police have increased violent armed raids in the favelas. Anti-impeachment activists have been met with pepper spray and arrests.
And in just the last several weeks, police have increased political repression of school occupations. Students have been occupying schools across Brazil to protest budget cuts to a school system that needs every penny it can get. At one occupation I visited—a school with huge, unused spaces that looked like scenes from a post-apocalypse movie—a student told me, “Adults think kids just want to have fun. We know things might not change right away, but we’re not doing this for ourselves. We’re doing it for the future.” They cite overcrowded classes, subjects not being offered, and other problems with the city's ailing schools, and their dedication is obvious.
Students told me about one incident where police pointed guns through the gate of their school until they were let in, and tried to arrest a teacher. After facing down students who insisted, “If you arrest one of us, you will have to arrest us all,” the police left, but not without taking pictures of everyone present. At other schools, shock troops of military police wearing body armor and toting pepper spray have carried out violent evictions, sometimes without proper legal orders.
What’s especially disturbing is that to many of the students involved in occupations, this is right in line with their expectations of the police. One student told me that the last time he got beat up by the police he was happy “because they were only using their hands,” instead of pistol-whipping him.
The Olympics Are Turning Rio into a Military State [Dia Kayyali/Motherboard]
(Image: Tropa de choque (PMERJ, 2013)., Fernando Frazão/ABr, CC-BY)