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The Beat-Down of Col. Reynaldo Simões Rossi


Source: Observatório da Imprensa

By: Luciano Martins Costa

A military police official from the PM high command is beaten in the streets by Black Bloc militants … one of whom steals his service pistol from its holster (at left). That no one got shot is a miracle.

The assault on Reynaldo Simões Rossi, chief of the military police command for metropolitan São Paulo, last Friday set off a series of reactions registered by the press over the weekend and led to a bread debate ranging from condemnation of the groups known as Black Blocs to the intensive analysis of a visiting French sociologist.

The beating of the PM commander exposes the state government’s lack of a strategy for absorbing the protests. The general tenor of news reports and comments coincides with the opinion of persons polled by Datafolha: As the Folha reported this weekend, 95% of those surveyed condemn the tactic of violent clashes with the PM and the destruction of property that come to typify the protests over the past three months.

On the other hand, most news coverage expresses discontent with the São Paulo troopers, insinuating that the government has difficulties reaching agreement on a strategy that meets the expectations of public opinion and at same time preserves unity and discipline in the law enforcement system.

On Friday (10/25), Col. Rossi was trying to open a dialogue with protestors who were promoting the usual scenes of violence during a rally in Dom Pedro II Park, in downtown São Paulo.

True to form, he approached the leaders of the Free Pass Movement (MPL) without body armor or helmet, but with his service pistol in its holster. The dialogue was prevented by Black Blocs, who assaulted the office, striking him with punches and kicks and finally knocking him to the ground with a metal sign. To make matters worse, they stole his pistol — considered the maximum humiliation among the PMs.

In the weekend papers, anonymous members of the PM, criticized the conciliatory stance of the colonel, noting that he failed to follow procedure for riots and mass mobilizations. The condemnation of attempting dialogue in the midst of confrontation comes from law enforcement experts who, according to the press, defend a more firm response in confrontation with aggressive militants. The press implies that the commander has lost the respect of the troops.

On Monday (10/28), the press reported by the PM is using Facebook to implore peaceful demonstrators to assist in identifying Black Blocs: There will a response.

The streets of São Paulo have tended to become more dangerous in recent days.

Platitudes and Evasions

As it happens that São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin finds himself in the difficult situation of having to explain accusations recently published based on wiretaps of organized crime figures which expose the ineffectiveness of state law enforcement. On the other hand there is growing resentment in the ranks of the PM, who call the governor’s proposed salary adjustment [… something negative …]

There has already been a protest by police across from the governor’s palace, ten days ago, and it would be surprising to witness a protest march by state law enforcement.

The last time that happened — in 2008 — military police shock troops were assigned to clamp down on a rally by the unions of the state judicial police. Someone got shot. See

It would be curious to say the least if São Paulo were to witness a demonstration of military police and their families with logistical support from the Black Blocs. As absurd as this might sound, it might actually happen, given that the State has lost control of events and the governor has responded to vandalism and police violence.

Alckmin’s responses to the most recent events are nothing more than platitudes: “There are legitimate demonstrations consistent with the freedom of expression. And there are demonstrations that are not legitimate and threaten that freedom,” the governor pontificated.

We are not here to defend more rigorous action by police, as the Folha de S.Paulo did in an editorial run on June 13, demanding that the state bar demonstrations. As we know, the PM have demonstrated their preference for aggression and needs no incentive to go out and break bones.

The military police need a commander whose voice is clear and unequivocal. Pressured by public opinion but having to meet the demands of police, and obliged as well to avoid a crisis that could reflect badly on him and his party next year — an election year — the  governor seems to vacillate.

The assault on Col. Reynaldo Rossi represents a loss of face for officers advocating dialogue. Without a clear signal from the Governor, the tendency is for isolated groups of PMs to make hasty decisions in the face of a Black Bloc that continues to demonstrate with violence.

The press is against the destruction of property and has also condemned the truculence of law enforcement, after its own reporters began to be assaulted by police.

A local observatory counted 87 assaults on journalists. Let me find that source …

The press is not, however, inclined to question the governor about this critically unstable situation.

And the French sociologist? Well, he is a French theorist talking about post-modernity.