[*Teachers in Brazil have been on strike. In Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday last week ‘Anarchist groups smashed banks and burnt a bus, while “Black Block” protesters threw firebombs at the police, who responded with teargas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades’ (Grauniad). The teachers’ union has reportedly declared support for the bloc.]
Anarchists promise to disrupt ‘absurd’ World Cup
James Hider in Sao Paulo
October 14, 2013
BRAZILIAN anarchists, who form part of the global anti-capitalist movement, have pledged to target next year’s World Cup.
The group says the event is an extravagant waste of money in a country where millions live in poverty.
In an interview with The Times, a member of the Black Bloc anarchist group [sic] said: “FIFA lies to us, it is all money laundering. The people get nothing out of it. They’ve spent millions on stadiums and have a law saying they don’t have to disclose how much they spend. FIFA will rule this country for the time of the World Cup.”
The 26-year-old heavily-tattooed black-clad anarchist, who asked not to be identified, said: “The World Cup is absurd. It will be a focus for us and we will fight it.”
Brazil is under intense scrutiny to show that it is able to contain mounting social unrest as it tries to organise two of the world’s most watched sporting events – a football World Cup next year and the Olympics, in Rio, in 2016. It is already far behind schedule in building the stadiums and infrastructure required for next year’s event.
Last week, Black Bloc, whose origins [kinda] lie in the European anarchist movement, shot to prominence in Rio and Sao Paulo when dozens of their number attacked banks, buses and shops after a demonstration by striking teachers descended into clashes with the police.
Wearing black clothing, crash helmets, gas masks and scarves round their faces, they set fire to banks, sprayed anti-World Cup grafitti on the walls of damaged buildings and handed out leaflets saying: “Relax people. It’s us, the Black Bloc. What you can’t do, we can. We don’t just attack, we defend people against police abuse and defend our right to protest.”
Political analysts believe that while many Brazilians deplore the violence, their disillusionment with the police and systemic corruption is fuelling support for the protesters and the anarchists who champion them.
The member of Black Bloc claimed that the principal role of the activists was to protect protesters calling for social change from police onslaughts.
“We are growing,” he said, his clothes adorned with the names of punk banks. “Before, it was a small punk group from the underground culture, but now people from other social groups are coming along. Upper-middle class kids are agreeing with us. Young people have more destructive energy and see it as a way to express themselves.” He said social media groups that helped them to organise themselves were infiltrated by police informers during the summer protests.
Black Bloc spontaneously present themselves at left-wing demonstrations, such as last week’s teachers’ strike, and confront the police. Armed with gas masks and plastic shields, they say they want to help legitimate protesters to be heard.
“Our goal is protection. We know the police are better equipped, with rubber bullets and teargas, which they often fire in large quantities,” he said. “But if we stand our ground, the people will stay and the protest will go on.”
The authorities’ response has been to flood the streets with police, gendarmes and even the army: when the Pope visited Rio in June after protesters disrupted the Confederations Cup, more than 10,000 security personnel lined the streets.
Rafael Alcadipani, a professor of organisation theory at the university of Sao Paulo who has studied Black Bloc, said that with a murder rate of 40,000 a year fewer than 10 per cent of which are solved Brazilians believe the police have other priorities than “people breaking windows with stones”.
“The more aggressive and violent the police are, the more they will fuel protests,” he said. “My guess is that they will try to stop a match of the World Cup, which will be big news. Brazilians are crazy about football but the majority of them can’t afford a ticket … it’s a tournament for the rich and people are upset about this.”