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“Shrapnel in Leblon” | Black Blocs in Action?

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The odd behavior of Rio military police during a demonstration marred by violent agitators.

Source: O Globo| Portal ClippingMP.

Prosecutor and police found intelligence group to investigate street vandals during demonstrations

More than a month since the beginning of a wave of protests in Rio, culminating in a violent confrontation in Leblon and Ipanema, a special commission will be created to investigate the activities of vandals who have infiltrated the demonstrations. Announcing the measure was the state’s attorney, Marfan Vieira.

According to Vieira, the group will include representatives of the public prosecutor’s office and the military and state legislative police, and will be directly tied to the office of governor Cabral.

The focus will be to identify suspects of inciting to riot and to to establish relationships among groups responsible for vandalism. These will be arrested for criminal conspiracy, a more serious charge carrying a heavier sentence and therefore avoiding the usual “catch and release” policy. Yesterday, the state police said that 62 persons have been arrested in flagrante for crimes such as aggravated larceny, criminal conspiracy and possession of explosives, but that 37 had been released after posting bail. 25 minors were also arrested.

“It is important to centralize information about certain organizations, many of them with ties to international groups, in order to avoid allowing them incite to violence and acts of vandalism,” Marfan said.

Among the groups under investigation are the Black Blocs, who claim to be inspired by a European anarchist movement.

Residents complain that the PM has not acted

The battlefield that the streets of Leblon and Ipanema became after a demonstration against Cabral two nights ago, revealed a serious change in the conduct of PMs, which has been much criticized for excessive force and abuse of nonlethal weapons. In this case, the PM did nothing to stop the looting, angering residents and leading to a debate among experts over the fine line between truculence and neglect of duty. Yesterday morning, after an emergency meeting of public safety officials called by Cabral, the state secretary of public safety, Jose Beltrame, admitted that the PM is obliged to act with caution:

“We are dealing with a mob, exhibiting behavior that is more difficult and complex and puts the police officer in doubt between an abundance of caution and abuse of authority. There is no immediate solution. A more specific mode of action could represent abuse of authority. We are learning from these 30 days that things are happening that have never happened before, such as the use of Molotov cocktails, masked demonstrators, incendiary slingshots. It is a difficult situation, no doubt. A certain discernment, a certain tolerance is necessary, and that is what the police exhibited yesterday.”

According to state judicial police chief Martha Rocha, the police cannot hold the vandalism suspects because the law does not allow it. The presiding magistrate of the state high court, Leila Mariano, emphasized that even though the vandalism suspects were subject to relaxed conditions of arrest, a large number of criminal proceedings are underway.

State PM commandant Erir Ribeiro Costa Filho, meanwhile, said the agreement among police, human rights groups and the Order of Brazilian Attorneys (OAB) – reduced use of nonlethal force, such as tear gas – failed.

— What we agreed to with Amnesty International, the rights community and the OAB did not go well. We will have to sit down and reevaluate. Tear gas, which everyone complains of, is less lethal. People say we should not use it. Yesterday, we saw there were difficultes. We are going to rethink our strategy and return to our previous mode of action. We do not know who is behind all this. A lot of people got lost in the confusion, but not us.

OAB-RJ president Felipe Santa Cruz, disagreed with the colonel. In his view, the police were either incompetent to deal with the situation or else acted in accordance with some political commitment in order to undermine the credibilty of the demonstrators with the population.

— We never entered into an agreement with them. After all, acting with the confines of the law is the norm and not the exception. Police do not need to respond with truculence any more than they are obliged to refrain from acting.

Amnesty International director Átila Roque, who took part in the meeting last week in which rules for the PM were debated, says that at the time, Costa Filho promised that “the people will see a very different PM.”

— At the time, I made a point of commenting to him that we were not defending inaction. The principal issue that emerged from this meeting was the reform of public safety and the discussion over the role of police in a democracy.

OAB: “Where were the police?”

President of the OAB human rights panel, Marcelo Chalréo, said he found the behavior of police during the episode strange :

-I was in Leblon around 8:30 p.m. and there were police everywhere. When the violence began, the police simply disappeared. They left the streets without a solution to the problem. The PM did not return until an hour later, when the first arrest was made. So where did the police go? MP e polícias criam grupo de inteligência para investigar baderneiros em protestos

Marfan Vieira himself commented:

— What you saw yesterday was a veritable seminar on the Penal Code. There were clear examples of criminal conspiracy, vandalism, violent theft, arson, and use of explosives, not to mention assaults against the police keeping watch at the scene.

Residents said the PM limited themselves to surrounding the street where the governor’s mansion is located, leaving other streets to the tender mercies of the vandals.

— The police were stationed near the governor’s mansion and not here in the neighborhood. The governor should move elsewhere,” said engineer Vinícius Mascarenhas, 53.

In a note, Cabral said that “acts of vandalism are an affront to the democratic rule of law.” He continued by saying that the state government, through the police, “reiterates its commitment to guaranteeing not only the right to freely protest but also the right to come and go and the protection of public and private property”