Brazil’s criminalised social movements: 2013 never ended

Organisations across Brazil have hit out over the last few weeks over the ongoing criminalisation of social movements, in particular the long-running campaign of demonisation and legal gagging against activists from transport campaign Bloco de Luta and the MST landless movement.

Based in Porto Alegre, Bloco del Luta has been facing heavy repression since its members helped organise a massive series of protests and occupations in 2013  against transport prices in the city which rocked the administration. A number of academic, anarchist, trade union and human rights groups have publicly declared their opposition to an atmosphere of repression which they say has persisted ever since.

In a public statement, they collectively said:

The importance of this note is to bring to mind the events that marked the year 2013 during the June Days in the city of Porto Alegre. Since the events of that year the escalation of repression has only grown, with the ostensible presence of the armed forces, political coup, a state of emergency, all characterised by a series of facts.

In Florianópolis there was the arrest warrant of the comrades of (trade union) Sintrasem, who fought the biggest strike in the history of the local civil service. There were the barbarities that occurred in Manaus and Espírito Santo. And there has been repression of demonstrations that swell to large proportions, including violations of human and constitutional rights.

The entities and groups that sign this note stand completely against the criminalisation of social struggle, particularly in the case of the six defendants of the Porto Alegre Bloco de Luta. We demand the acquittal of the accused and we make ourselves available and support the national campaign in their defence.

PROTEST IS NOT A CRIME!
ROLLING SOLIDARITY AS AND THE FIGHTERS!

Signed,

ASSIBGE / SC
Popular Brigades Academic
Center for Biology – UFSC
Anarchist Collective Black Flag
Regional Council of Psychology 12th Region – Santa Catarina
Campaign Contrataque
Internship Interdisciplinary Experiences – EIV SC
Rainbow Institute of Human Rights
Youth PSTU
Movement for an Independent and Socialist Alternative – MORE
National Movement of Population in Situation of Street – MNPR / SC
Movement Free Pass – Floripa
Movement Coral Reef 100% Public
Movement of Homeless Workers – MTST
Occupies Obarco Opposition
We For Us (RECC)
Trade Union Section of ANDES-SN at UFSC

The statement follows on from a similar initiative last month, in which the Brazilian Committee of Defenders of Human Rights called for the freedom of political prisoners from the MST. The Brazilian State has been enforcing a policy of “preventative imprisonment” to deter mass invasions of unused land owned by largely absent landlords by effectively criminalising membership of the organisation.

In a petition to reverse the measure, BCDHR said:

Being without land does not violate public order. It is not a crime to organise workers to protest agrarian reform. Applying the label of “criminal organisation” to members of a social movement, based solely on the fact that they belong to said movement, represents a fundamental violation of the human right to freedom of expression and assembly, provided for in several international agreements to which Brazil is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Inter-American Declaration on Human Rights.

In addition, it is not legitimate to assert without evidence that members of the MST, because they are landless, would prevent the production of evidence in these proceedings, or that they would evade the application of criminal law.

All persons, including members of the MST, have the right to freely respond to the charges. Pretrial detention against members of the MST, because they are generic, attacks the presumption of innocence. The present situation suggests that the landless are guilty until they can prove their innocence, contrary to what is established in the Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil and in several international treaties to which the country is a signatory.