Two major protests took place in the streets of Sao Paulo on June 12th, the day when the city hosted the inaugural match of the World Cup. The match between Brazil and Croatia started at 5pm in Corinthians Arena. The protests were scheduled for much earlier, at 10am, and occurred in the eastern zone, the same region as the stadium known as Itaquerão. There were two events organized by the protestors, one in the center and another less than four miles from the arena.

The protester’s chant and unofficial name, “If We Do Not Have Rights, There Will Be No World Cup” began its tenth protest in Sao Paulo last Thursday. The demonstrations began earlier this year on January 25th, and the movement has undergone intense police repression. On one occasion, a figure from the demonstrations, Fabrizio Proteus Chaves, 22, was shot by military police with two shots at close range. In another protest organized by the group, on February 22nd, the Police employed a tactic known as “kettling,” surrounding protesters and arresting more than 200 people before any crimes had been committed.

Protests against the World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil

“We expected a response from a repressive state power,” recalls Rafael Padial, a member of the Free Territory, one of the groups of the movement. “Do not expect anything different for this new event.” Despite the brutality, Padial’s group reaffirms their opposition to holding the Cup in the country. “Brazil has a million priorities that should be addressed rather than the tournament. We need to solve the problems of laborers and youth, and as Padial points out, commenting on his disappointment at the start of the games, “It’s a debacle.”

Critical of the organization of the tournament three years ago, a separate organization called the People’s Committee of the Sao Paulo Cup decided not to protest before the start of the World Cup. “We have no intention to derail the games,” notes Vanessa Ramos, member of the organization, which, instead of coming out to march in the streets, decided to organize a protest at the Favela do Moinho, in the city center. “As FIFA has created a space of exclusion, we decided to make a space for inclusion to call attention to human rights violations in the city.”

“The Favela do Moinho is symbolic,” says Vanessa. “It is in the center of Sao Paulo, and it has been the subject of much speculation and the residents have been threatened with eviction several times, but have been able to resist many types of dangers, including city fires. The community remembers that the administration of Mayor Gilberto Kassab (PSD) built a wall around the community, and that the promises made by Fernando Haddad (PT), who visited the site during his campaign, have not materialized. “It is our Gaza Strip,” Vanessa compares, “and shows that there are areas of permanent exclusion in the city, especially demonstrating the exclusion of rights.”

Construction of the Itaquerão Stadium, São Paulo, Brazil

The People’s Committee of the Sao Paulo Cup is wary of the tournament. “It started a long time ago, from when the country was chosen to host the event,” Ramos says. “The election of Brazil by FIFA was a display of the kind of development that is being implemented here: an exclusive development where the people pay the bill for the few that have the privilege to enjoy it.” Among the setbacks faced by the population in recent years, Ramos points out that many workers have died during the construction and renovation of stadiums, street vendors have been forcibly evicted and restricted, and many other apparatuses of repression have been used as well.

“There were far more setbacks than advances,” laments one activist, announcing that the National Coordination of the Popular Committees Cup (ANCOP) will release a dossier of violations shortly after the tournament. Ramos, however, sees some popular victories. “In spite of the threats of eviction, Favela da Paz, which has existed for over 20 years and is 800 meters from the Itaquerão stadium, is still there. The occupation of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), located less than four miles from the stadium, also remains. And the recent negotiations with the federal government regarding the construction of affordable housing are still active.”

Another view of the construction of the Itaquerao stadium, São Paulo, Brazil

Lastly, Ramos has said, “Since FIFA opted to exclude most of the country’s population from the grand event, the MTST decided to organize their own popular event,” which was announced on the organization’s Facebook page. The event, which will double as a demonstration, will include games of “selections” of the subway workers, street sweepers, teachers, students and road workers, as well as cultural activities that are critical of World Cup organizers.

How do you think the World Cup will impact Brazil and Sao Paulo? 

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, can be found here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.