A member of Brazil's indigenous population squats in the street and lights a fire in protest of FIFA. (Credit: Tim Eastman)

A right to Rio? Images from the outer-bounds of the World Cup

1. Glued to the Screen

Brazil recently played host to the 2014 World Cup, drawing millions of fans and spectators from all over the world. Here locals and tourists gather to watch a match on a jumbo screen on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

2. The Displaced

These children are among hundreds of thousands of Brazilians displaced from their homes ahead of the World Cup, to make room for new construction and beautification efforts. They are part of a group of former residents of the Telerj area of Rio de Janeiro. The group has dispersed throughout various areas of Rio, wandering from place to place without a home. The Church of Our Lady of Loreto has been serving as a shelter, but no longterm housing has emerged for the displaced. The state has offered 160,000 Reais (approx. USD 71,000.00) in resettlement money to relocate to proper homes and pay rent while new houses are constructed. The problem is that R160,000 is only enough to support eighty families during this process, half of the 160 which are now living at the Church. The group has refused the money and demanded enough for everybody, but so far the government is unwilling to negotiate.

3. Challenging Police Violence in the Favelas

Favelas, or slums, are home to many of Brazil’s poor. Military-style invasions of the neighborhoods by Pacifying Police Units, or UPPs ahead of the World Cup were utilized with the stated aim of fighting crime. In addition to gang members killed in shootouts, many innocent favela residents have been killed by police. Some as collateral damage, others for being suspected of crimes for which they were later found innocent, and still more for reasons unknown. Though the rule of drug gangs has been removed in pacified favelas, it has been replaced by a reign of terror at the hands of the police.

These protesters are friends and relatives of victims of favela police violence. They wear t-shirts and hold signs bearing the names and likenesses of their deceased loved ones. As residents of favelas, some say they risk their safety and even lives just by marching. After protests police have been known to wait outside the homes of protesters to intimidate or attack. Because they are poor, little notice is taken in mainstream Brazilian society. Often attention is only able to be drawn through the spectacle of protest, which then mainly draws attention when transformed into violent conflict. Thus Brazilian media to casts protesters as criminals.

4. Fire of Dissent

A member of Brazil’s indigenous population squats in the street and lights a fire in protest of FIFA. Construction to expand Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro included the seizure of a building with significance to the indigenous population, and a surrounding native village. The building once housed the Museum of the Indian People in Brazil, and prior to that the Indian Protection Bureau. At the beginning of the 20th century it also housed the original Institute of Indigenous Cultural Research in Brazil.

In recent years a village, known as the Aldeia Maracanã, had sprung up around the site. The village was a home to members of various tribes and also served as a meeting place for indigenous visitors to the city. In 2013, after a standoff between police and residents, the village was violently raided and evicted with the aid of tear gas and pepper spray. Non-indigenous protesters who were present were also attacked.

Villagers were relocated to temporary shelters, where they have lived for thirteen months. A government promise to construct a new village on a different site has so far not materialized.

After public outcry the government backtracked on plans to demolish the building that once housed the Museum of the Indian People in Brazil. The building now has landmark status and there are plans to turn it into an Indigenous cultural center.

5. Let the Games Go On

Protests during the World Cup were met with heavy police repression and violence. The Brazilian government was largely successful in suppressing protest and preserving the festive atmosphere it wished to present to the world.

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On Sept 19, 2023 ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, climate activists gathered for a rally and civil disobedience outside Bank of America Tower in Midtown Manhattan as part of the March to End Fossil Fuels wave of actions resulting in multiple arrests. Activists demand Bank of America to “Defund Climate Chaos and Defend Human Rights” Photo: Erik McGregor (CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed)

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Illustration by Stephanie McMillan. Used with permission