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Rio de Janeiro | Masked Men, Again


Source: Observatório da Imprensa

By: Mauro Malin

Translation: C. Brayton

It has all become routine: the collaboration of mainstream media with military police — that is, with state governments — together with the action of black blocs and infiltrated agents provocateurs.

Why? To draw attention away from or manipulate protest marches in Rio and São Paulo.

The demonstration is shown in the images below. The major dailies focus on the violence of hundreds and not the peaceful demonstration of thousands.

Above all, they fail to ask why military police respond with violence to some peaceful demonstrators, or else stand passively by watching the agents of violence until their behavior becomes extreme.

In The Beginning: São Paulo

This pattern of conduct was demonstrated by the São Paulo PMs during the June protests. On June 13, there was an attempt to undermine the protests of the Free Pass Movement with the use of extreme violence. This was the day a reporter for TV Folha and a freelance photographer were struck in the eyes by rubber bullets. As I said at the time, this was an act designed to quell the protests  …

Subsequently, the authorities changed their tactics. Apparently, police commanders were concerned about the negative publicity of police delivering a beat down and decided that police would observe passively until the demonstrators themselves adopted violence as a weapon. The fact of the matter  is that they systematically alllowed the situation to escalate to the point that it justified the use of force …

Against the Teachers Union

During recent demonstrations by teachers in Rio de Janeiro, the same script was followed. On October 1, the Rio PM [joined the fray] … as they used to say. State public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame delivered the verdict: “Yes, excesses were committed by police, but these excesses are sometimes committed by both sides.”

President of the human rights commission of the Rio bar association, Wadih Damous, declared: “What we are witnessing in Rio is a policy of extermination of protesters, risking the lives of citizens with the indiscriminate use of pepper spray and rubber bullets.”  This irrelevant rhetoric does not help us understand things as they are. Either Damous expressed himself badly or else he does not understand the term  “extermination.” In any case, it is clear that police violence did cause a commotion.

On October 7, PM-RJ switched tactics: Let it happen and then join the fray. Not even Globo, whose news broadcasts follow the standard of an ever more perfect  obnoxiousness, failed to report that “the police have reduced the number of police sent to the scene, and this time took a long time before repressing the actions of the masked demonstrators.

Yes, but the main headline in O Globo was notable as well:

Vandals repress protests, again

For a newspaper not known for its labor agitation or moral courage, this represents taking the risk and offering an interpretation.  Perhaps there is some political angle being played out.

Cui Bono?

Of all the Rio dailies,it was O Dia that came closest to asking the right question — though without attempting to answer it. In a sidebar on Page 5 (“SEPE condemns vandalism at protest”) it reproduces a declaration by the teachers union of Rio de Janeiro, which claims that “agents infiltrated into the protest began the vandalism with the intention of undermining our next protest marches.” SEPE director Jalmir Ribeiro, was more explicit. According to Ribeiro, there may have been “PMs infiltrated among the teachers and unionists.”

None of the papers asks the obvious question: Why is the PM applying this double standard, which in the end amounts to the same things, namely, pressure to abandon the street protests.

The answer, recently given by a political but independent source, is that the function of the PM is to help avoid political blowback and make maximum use of the episode in favor of governor Sérgio Cabral Filho and his group in the run-up to the 2014 elections. 

But why was this question not asked? Because these news organizations are, to a greater or lesser extent, political allies of Cabral and Rio mayor Eduardo Paes. Mulling over the possibilities of this alliance is beyond the limits of this article, however



And here you have it [above]: the front-page photographs from October 8. The top headline in Extra was copied as the title of this topic. The image at left is by the Estado de S. Paulo. Only the titles of the images appear above the fold. OESP was the only newspaper to depict a masked protester atop a police car rolled over on its side.

Media Ninja also captured the image … But its activists do not pretend any commitment to the defense of democracy, as understood by the Constitutional Assembly of 1988, which represented the citizens who voted in 1986. If the police car of democracy is destroyed, it is the task of the media to photograph the demolition. Until they are arrested, and ….

As to the presence of police agents provocateurs — the so-called P2 — there is a lot of video that has been gone over carefully. It seems a likely story.