To protest or not to protest… is really that the dilemma??

Most of you must have read, seen or heard about Brazilian protests. Being in Campinas, a city located 1 hour (aprox.) from São Paulo, while all of this is happening, has been a very interesting experience, which in a way, reinforces some of my previous feelings about the Occupy movement, which now is not as popular as it was a year ago.

Everything started with one simple reclamation. The organised Movement called “Passe Livre” – MPL (Free pass in English), started to complain about the high prices of public transportation, which was about to suffer one more raise. A small group started to protest and the aggressive reactions of the police and the negative articles published by the media, were, in my opinion, some of the causes of the big fire that came after. Facebook, mostly, was transformed in the media in which the public opinion started to appear. Some were disappointed with the governor’s reaction to the protest, in particular the use of police force intend to quiet a pacific manifestation. Others started to complain how the media, in particular “O Globo“, the biggest communication company on the country, projected the manifestation only showing the damages made by a few people and not what the movement was trying to achieve. However, the claims did not stop there. More claims started to appear, such as a big critique about the high expenses on stadiums for the World Cup while basic services as Education and Health are in precarious situations, also claims about corruption on the government and opposition to a Senator which is trying to establish a law that helps to find a “cure for Gay people”.

The mix of various complains, images about the police abuse and constant posts about freedom and the need for public support on Facebook, made more and more young people (between 15 til 35) to go along the movement. Moreover, the fact that the raise in the price of public transportation was something that was about to happen in several Brazilian Cities, and that the other claims were nation wide concerns, extended the protest to a national level.

By this time, Facebook was already flooded by pictures, post, memes, about the manifestation and several event pages were created, one for each city (Ex: Campinas) and another that summoned a national manifestation for the 20th of June (National convocation).

I was able to be at the one in Campinas. It was said that more that a millon Brazilians nation wide, in more than 80 cities, went out to the streets to support the movement. However, it is still not clear what is the expected result from the manifestation itself. MPL do not consider themselves the leaders of the whole protest, but only subject related to the price in public transportation. They achieve what they wanted, which was the reduction of the last raise in the price, but now they continue to protest because they do not want education and health investments to be reduce to cover this reduction. And for the rest of the claims? Who is leading? What are the precise demands? Who is negotiating to achieve what? For me its not clear. And it is around this that I will do a small reflection.

The people in Brazil are tired of being abused. Their democratic rights as citizens is mostly reduced to election processes every couple of years, for different political offices. In between, their voice is supposed to be silent. This is also know as a “polyarchy” government. But it is during this lapses of time in which politicians govern and some of the claims the people complain about occur. Please do not misunderstand me. There are some participatory mechanisms in place, and some politicians listen and work together with the ones that elected them. But considering Brazilian political system and the size of the country, this is far from enough.

For me this is were the main challenge is. The claims are things that need correction for sure, but there will always be things to improve. So what should we do? Protest and paralyse the country every time? I do not thing this as a medium or long term solution. The are some problems, among others, that we should take some time to reflect and try to find solutions for:

  1. How to make a common citizen, not just those more educated or already politicised, to be more interested in political participation?
  2. How to re-structre the government system to allow the people’s participation?
  3. How to make visible the people’s contributions on the actions taken place by their representatives?

I totally support the protest, in particular because it is a first sign that there are people willing to change what now is not working. But we should also use this opportunity to think what is this other way we want. Besides presenting our dissatisfaction and our claims, we should also try to organise ourselves to find solutions to the problems presented above. The current politicians agree with the current system, so we should not wait for them to make any changes. We should make proposals, explore solutions. And we are not alone, I include myself in this issue, not because I am currently in Brazil, but because this lack of satisfaction is a feeling that is spreading worldwide! We saw it with the Arab spring, the Occupy movement, the Brazilian protests and many others.

Facebook helped to make visible the public’s opinion and to attract others to join the cause… can it also help to discuss solutions? Maybe we need some other kind of forum? There is still a lot to discuss and reflect.. but we should not lose momentum, and take advantage of the current enthusiasm to try to do more with a long-term vision.

I am trying by reflecting first on this blog… what are you doing? Who wants to join me into this discussion?


Un pensamiento en “To protest or not to protest… is really that the dilemma??

  1. Sammia, thanks for this post. I was very interested to read in your post that the MPL, having achieved their objective on bus fares, remained active “because they do not want education and health investments to be reduce to cover this reduction”. Following this logic, wouldn’t one way to enable greater people’s participation in setting priorities for public spending be to use the ‘participatory budgeting’ model successfully innovated in the Brazilian province of Porto Alegre amongst since 1989?


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