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News From The Sambodian Street

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Source: Barão de Itararé

By: Luiz Carlos Azenha

Translation: C. Brayton

We were invited to a meeting with militants and supporters of the Free Pass Movement — MPL — which over the past two weeks accomplished a historic feat: It brought the people back into the streets to demand their rights, where they were victims of a violent repression comparable only to the violence used by the military police in the evacuation of Pinheirinho, in São José dos Campos.

In the middle of our conversation, the news came in: Governor Alckmin and Mayor Haddad had announced a reduction in public transport fares, as the movement had demanded.

There was general celebration.

My wife, who attended the march at the Largo de Batata, was giddy with excitement. 

Among those invited to the event were blogggers Rodrigo Vianna, Altamiro Borges, Leonardo Sakamoto, and yours truly, as well as media owner Joaquim Palhares, activist Sergio Amadeu and journalist Maria Inês Nassif.

The objective of the meeting was basically to affirm that “yes, we are leftists and have a leftist agenda.” Or rather: “No, we are not being manipulated by the agenda of the right.”

History professor Lucas Oliveira, aka Legume, spoke in the name of the MPL. Legume and activists with ties to the movement described the unity they were able to establish with left-wing parties in recent days — PSOL, PSTU and PCO, among others — along with militants of the PT and a large number of social movements, among them the MST, the PCdoB’s UJS and UNE.

Yes, there was general concern with the possibility of infiltration and manipulation of the agenda by right-wing groups seeking to use the movement to attack the federal government.

They denied that anarchists were behind the attempt to shut out the political parties, attributing this initiative to arrivistes.

They said that it was impossible to control the masses of people who joined in — a Datafolha survey showed that most were marching for the very first time.

In future mobilizations, the MPL plans to reinforce the groups responsible for security, communication, and first aid.

Digital activist Sergio Amadeu presented a graphic showing that in recent days the MPL had lost ground in the social networks to right-wing groups, which wield greater power over followers who share their ideological profile — which may explain the worries of many Free Pass followers.

The page has been liked 273,273 times.

The next protest may focus on PEC 90, a bill by federal deputy Luiza Erundina (PSB-SP) that would make public transport a social right. The MPL, working with PT city councilmember Nabil Bonduki, may attempt to vote on the free pass in the municipal council.

All those who attended were certain that provocateurs and infiltrated agents took part in the action. Some, probably from the military police, were put to work collecting images and information. Others, representing groups of the extreme right, promoted vandalism that could later be attributed to the MPL.

There was general agreement that Mayor Haddad was the loser in this scenario — he might have announced his willingness to lower fares after hearing from the participatory Conselho da Cidade, which essentially endorsed the position of the MPL.

The role played by Haddad — who went to the governor’s place to make the announcement and  spoke after Governor Geraldo Alckmin — also caused surprise. As fare reductions were announced at practically the same moment in Rio de Janeiro, there was speculation about an accord among governors and mayors to relieve the pressure on the streets.

The celebration was general, bearing in mind that the MPL has only a small circle of militants with an average age of 23. Despite this, it pulled off the most impressive victory of this new generation of youthful militants.