“Violent Protest Marks Arrival of Bush”: Veja x The Uninterviewed Eyewitness

A squad of choque defend the FIESP Death Star building, site of the pro-Daslu Brooks Bros. Riots of a year or so ago. Source: Flickr. Click to zoom.

Protesto violento marca chegada de Bush (Veja magazine). The Paulista turns into “a war zone,” according to the scabarous “The MST wants to eat your babies, and only the iPhone can save you from the onslaught of the advancing mud people” glossy infotainment noise machine and advertorial-shilling journalistic prostitution ring.

Brasil Indymedia is starting to collect eyewitness accounts now, finally. Let’s note those, and the Veja story, and see who comes out looking most journalistic in this whole maracutaia of general corre-corre and quebra-quebra.

The PMs on the scene, according to a local TV news operation — TV Record, I believe it was — were seen removing their name tags to avoid identification prior to the incident.

Which makes it difficult to solicit their perspective on the incident, of course.

First word goes to Ana Paula Vencato of the indy “be the media” brigades. She was there. Ana Paula is a UFRJ anthropologist, it seems, judging from a quick Google.

Hoje fomos a marcha para o dia internacional da mulher na Avenida Paulista que aconteceu no mesmo dia da chegada de George W. Bush a São Paulo. Inevitável que se somasse, a marcha das mulheres, protestos contra o presidente estadunidense cuja política externa pró-guerra e postura genocida, além da política ultra-conservadora quanto aos direitos sexuais, dispensa maiores apresentações.

Today we went to the international women’s day march on the Av. Paulista, which happened on the same day as Bush’s arrival in the city. It was inevitable that the women’s march would be joined by protests against Bush, whose pro-war foreign policy and genocidal posture, along with an ultraconservative position on sexual rights, need no further discussion.

A marcha transcorreu como outra qualquer. De fato, os cartazes anti-Bush tomavam boa parte da marcha. Das janelas dos prédios dos bancos, empresas e prédios residenciais, pessoas apoiavam a manifestação ou simplesmente a assistiam.

The march went just like any other. In fact, the anti-Bush pickets made up a good part of the march. From the windows of the banks and corporate high-rises and the residential buildings, people supported the march or simply watched it.

Note: presence of hundreds, if not thousands, of eyewitnesses, some visibly supportive, some not. Send a cub reporter out to make the rounds with a tape-recorder and in a couple of hours, you have some eyewitness quotes to leaven your reporting with.

Durante a manifestação — antes de tudo, uma marcha para mulheres, que fique sublinhado — algumas e alguns manifestantes tentaram tomar espaço na outra metade da Paulista, que não estava interditada, algo comum a qualquer manifestação. Em duas ocasiões isso aconteceu, o que causou alguma correria da polícia, que tentou esvaziar a pista para que o tráfego seguisse normalmente.

During the demonstration — which was, above all, a march for women, let it be emphasized — some demonstrators tried to take over space on the other half of the Av. Paulista, which was not blocked off. Something like this happens in every demonstration. This happened twice, which caused the police to scramble around some, trying to clear out the opposite lanes so traffic could continue on normally.

Military personnel trying to resolve traffic jams, at least, is a different story than causing them while engaging in firefights across a heavily traveled freeway during Carnaval.

See Militias, Marines and the Traffic Thumb Noses at Rei Momo.

The NYPD, I bet you — our cops have their problems from time to time, but also have a national reputation for competence to defend, a unique global-urban complex of issues to deal with, and, above all, some freaking self-respect, and esprit de corps, with bagpipes and stuff — would have met with the organizers and discussed this eventuality, and how to deal with it.

You might even have seen a cop and a march coordinator doing a joint bullhorn session for people to either get with the program or get on the damn sidewalk, because the program is to color inside the lines, look nice for TV, then go out for cold beer, while the cops look handsome in their uniforms on TV while wondering how the Mets are doing.

A media-savvy protest leader knows full well when to say, “That bozo is not with us, and I do not vouch for him.”

Not that we saw anybody interviewing protest leaders, or passersby, or anybody involved, for quoting in the papers here.

Too busy leaping to apocalyptic conclusions.

The Gotham cops would then come riding along behind the march with a line of meter-maid carts or scooters or something, lights blinking, telling stragglers they need to get out of the way of being run over because the cars are now coming along behind.

That actually happened to Neuza, my “slow but steady wins the race” wife, during the Tour de Brooklyn bicycle ride a year or so back, when she fell behind the stragglers and the time came to open traffic back up on the main drag.

“Ma’am, you will have to ride on a side street or the promenade, for you own safety. Thank you and have a nice day!”

You too, Officer. Have a nice day.

And thanks for the good job on the traffic control.

The bike ride to Coney Island and back on a lovely spring day was really, really fun. It makes me feel good about where I live, and the gummint that runs it (except, of course, that I still say there is something a little fishy about that Marty Markowitz guy, the borough president).

Quando a marcha chegava ao seu ponto final, o MASP, e as mais de 10.000 pessoas que marchavam estavam aglomeradas a polícia passa a agir ostensivamente contra a multidão. Não apenas contra os meninos punks ou anarquistas que invadiam a outra pista da Paulista, o que já seria absurdo, mas contra todas as pessoas que estavam concentradas em frente ao MASP. Na confusão, militantes de esquerda e mulheres que tinham ido a marcha, eram atacados por bombas de efeito moral, jogadas no meio das pessoas.

When the march arrived at its final point, the Museum of Modern Art, and the more than 10,000 persons were bunched together, the police began to act aggressively against the crowd. And not only against the young punk and anarchist kids who were invading the other lanes, which would itself have been an absurd thing to do, but against everyone crowded together there in front of MASP. In the confusion, members of left political parties and movement and women who had marched were attacked with flash bombs fired into the middle of the crowd.

Photographs of the scene in other press organs did show the PMs behind the main body of the parade as it arrived at its scheduled end point at MASP-Trianon.

The PMs, and some newspapers, said they were there to “cut off” and “control” the demonstration, and the like, but you see photographs of them firing indiscriminately into the rear guard of the march.

Which is why “confrontation” seems like an odd word to use. Just as “police and demostrators clash” does not seem especially fitting for video of a young person curled up in the fetal position in the middle of the street getting bum-rushed by a mob of PMs and kicked in the genitals by jackbooted choques.

On television.

After having removed their name badges to avoid being identified.

Forces that “clash” as they “confront” one another and clash are generally speaking headed in opposite directions.

Estávamos paradas perto do MASP quando a coisa estourou e, achando que estaríamos protegidas, fomos para perto de uma parede, onde estavam mulheres, algumas de mais de 60 anos e crianças. A polícia continuou vindo para cima e a correria começou. Lembro que um menino caiu no chão no meio do empurra-empurra. Talvez tenha sido pisoteado. Nesse momento uma bomba de efeito moral cai perto da gente, há pouco mais de um metro. Há fumaça por toda parte, olhos ardendo e dificuldade de respirar. Por sorte, o pânico causado pela ação irresponsável da polícia não causou estragos ainda maiores.

We were standing near MASP when the thing blew up, and thinking that we would be protected there, moved up close to a wall, where we encountered women, some in their 60s, and children. The police continued advancing and the general panic commenced. I remember seeing a kid fall to the ground in the middle of the pushing and shoving. He may have been trampled. At this moment a “moral effect” bomb landed near use, a little over a meter away. There was smoke everywhere, eyes burning, difficulty breathing. It was luck that the panic caused by this irresponsible action by the police did not cause a worse mess than it did.

Corremos para o vão do MASP, onde várias pessoas machucadas estavam no chão. Uma mulher com as duas pernas machucadas e sangrando devido aos estilhaços de uma bomba. Pessoas passando mal com o efeito das bombas, que nem sabiam como se proteger delas, como minimizar o efeito da fumaça.

We ran into the space under MASP [which, in act of Brutalist whimsy, is suspended above the ground on pillars, like a box of Col. Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken sculpted in bunker-grade concrete by Albert Speer and levitated by Siegfied and Roy –Ed.], where we found various persons wounded on the ground. One woman had both legs hurt and bleeding from bomb shrapnel. People who were sick from the effect of the bombs, because they did not know how to protect themselves or minimize the effect of the smoke.

Demorou um bom tempo para a polícia recuar. No dia internacional da mulher, a polícia paulistana homenageou as mulheres com violência física e bombas de efeito moral, além do absoluto desrespeito pela tomada do espaço público e do direito de se manifestar.

The police took a long time before retreating. On international women’s day, the São Paulo police paid homage to women with physical violence and crowd-control bombs, as well as an absolute disrepect for public space and the right to demonstrate.

Which reinforces the notion that the protest was almost entirely peaceful, exactly as planned, except that for some reason a relatively small bunch of maverick boi-zebus wandered into the neighboring lane late in the day.

How did that happen, exactly?

Veja won’t tell you.

In this Indymedia version, as in the TV New Zealand report, it was “anarchist kids,” photographs of whom we are starting to see.

Cerca de 6.000 manifestantes, de acordo com informações da Polícia Militar, fecharam nesta quinta-feira parte da Avenida Paulista, em São Paulo, para protestar contra a visita do presidente dos Estados Unidos, George W. Bush, ao Brasil. Um ato que começou pacífico terminou em confronto violento entre policiais e manifestantes. Ao menos cinco pessoas ficaram feridas – três manifestantes, uma tenente da Polícia Militar e um fotógrafo.

Around 6,000 protestors, according to the Military Police, closed part of the Av. Paulista in São Paulo to protest against the visit of the President of the United States, Dubya, to Brazil. An act that began peacefully ended up in a violent confrontat between police and demonstrators. At least five persons were hurt — three protestors, a PM lieutenant, and a photographer.

Previous reports had put the toll at 3 PMs and a demonstrator.

São Paulo Agora cited 23 casualties.

True: the 6,000 took over half of the roadway for the march. But who closed the roadway? It was my impression that they had a permit to do it, and cooperation from the metro traffic control wonks, who were the ones who closed the Paulista to let the march go through during the previously planned period of telegenic flag-waving and Bush-cussing.

But I will check.

But, again, all 6,000 did not decide to leap the fence, mind you.

In the very brief aerial shot I saw on the boob tube, a relatively small portion of the crowd was visible milling around in the opposite lane, apparently behind, and cut off from, the main order of march.

The rest — the tail end of the parade, it looked like to me, not the entire marching contingent — stayed inbounds. Maybe 100 or 200 people in all visible in the shot, as I naked-eyeballed it, and not half of them outside the designated marching area.

Metade da avenida já havia sido interditada pela polícia, devido ao alto número de manifestantes. A violência começou quando eles tentaram bloquear o trânsito no outro sentido de circulação da via. À tentativa dos policiais de removê-los dali, os manifestantes responderam com paus e pedras. Policiais chegaram a usar gás de pimenta e bombas de gás lacrimogêneo contra o grupo que tentava invadir as outras pistas da avenida. Enquanto os militantes alegam terem sofrido abuso de violência policial, a PM insiste que foram feitos diversos pedidos para que eles se retirassem do local antes que os soldados partissem para o enfrentamento.

Half of the avenue had already been blocked off by the police, thanks to the high number of demonstrators.

Did the march have a permit, or coordination with the traffic authorities, or did it not?

What did my gringo property-taxpayer. Banco Central-hoarded, Petrobras-subsidized reserve-dollars pay for out there, and how effectively did they get spent?

Headlines making São Paulo look like downtown Medellin, 1995, is not something you think the local Rotarians would be too pleased about.

But then again, see World in Crisis, II: Carnival of Flackery on the Palfrey-like schizogenic discourse of Rio de Janeiro real estate and tourism industry lobbyists, as quoted by the local press and Reuters stringers.

The violence began when they tried to block traffic in the opposite direction. To an attempt by the police to remove them, the protestors responded with pieces of wood and stones. The police used pepper gas and tear-gas bombs against the group that tried to invade the other lanes of the avenue. While the militants say they suffered police abuse, the PM insists that they issued various requests for them to retire from the location before the soldiers moved in to confront them.

Pronoun trouble.

First it was “the demonstrators” who blocked the avenue. Later in the paragraph it is “a group [of demonstrators] that tried to invade the other lanes.”

Veja is having trouble with what logicians call quantification.

It is predicating actions of some demonstrators — or some persons on the scene of the demonstration, because no professional information serve has actually explained who these persons were, or whom they purported to represent, or how many, or even what exactly they did — over the entire universe of demonstrators.

  1. Some people on the street during the demonstration were left-handed Alagoans.
  2. All persons on the street during the demonstration were demonstrators.
  3. Ergo, all demonstrators were left-handed Alagoans.

How about more details straight from horses mouth? A quote or two from the baby-eating rabble-rousers trying to impugn the honor and competence of our disclipined and efficient Officer Friendly?

You would think that their own words would reveal them for the propanganda-spewing, hate-mongering idiots they really are.

So how about a quote? Sourced to a human with a name?

An old CBS News program was called “And You Are There.”

Use the actual words of people who were actually there so we can get a picture of what it might have been like.

How about an interview with the punk kids, even? The manos of the periferia and the blag-flag punkers of ABC Paulista? The usual suspects from that whole Galeria de Rock scene?

“What in the hell, exactly, did you think you were doing, punk kid?”

O confronto entre polícia e manifestantes provocou correria e transformou a principal avenida da cidade em uma praça de guerra. Antes, quando o protesto era pacífico, Bush foi duramente criticado pela estratégia comercial e política, conduzida em seu governo. Ele foi chamado de “fascista”, “terrorista”, “porco imperialista”, entre outros nomes escritos nos milhares de cartazes empunhados pelos manifestantes. Entre eles haviam diversos representantes do PT, segundo O Estado de S. Paulo.

The confrontation between police and demonstrators provoked a wild scramble and transformed the principal avenue of the city into a war zone. Before, when the protest was peaceful, Bush was harshly criticized for the political and commercial strategy of his government. He was called “fascist,” “terrorist,” “imperialist pig,” among other names written on thousands of picket signs carried by the demonstrators. Among them were various representatives of the PT, according to the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Wars between heavily armed parties and unarmed parties are normally referred to as “massacres,” I believe.

The notion of a “war” implying some minimum of degree of parity in the practical capacity for, and inclination to resort to, violence.

Don’t you think?

And let’s get a list of all the groups sponsoring the official march while we are at it.

Surely there were some Toucan and PSOLista feminists around as well, I bet you, grousing about the sneaking of the foreign policy and political economy dispute into their deeper, transpolitical gender consensus?

To which, I admit, I can relate: I have always been against the war in Iraq, but must I really subscribe to the omnibus deep interpretations of the Zeitgeist by International A.N.S.W.E.R. in order to take part in a mass march?

Where is there room for the “hey hey! ho ho! Vastly stupid and wasteful unilateralism that endangers the Doha Round and contravenes Bush campaign trash-talking about Clintonian ‘nation-building’ has got to go!” brigade? With its derivise caricatures of the neocon chicken hawks?

The Left has been overrun by Moonies in many instances, too. Which is its main problem, I think.

Must I believe that capital markets are an expression of evil genocidal racism by their very nature? I suppose that could turn out to be right, in theory, but I am still very, very far from reaching that conclusion for  myself.

But good idea: let’s read the Estadão‘s coverage, and compare. Ah, here it is:

Estado de S. Paulo takes a bird’s-eye view: The coverage was framed primarily as a traffic-annoyance story, with reporting on the action of the traffic authority. Which struck me as bland but coherent enough. Sometimes life is just blandly annoying. It is probably fair to assume that the vast majority of people out there merely wanted to wade through the bagunça in time for the new 8 o’clock Globo soap, “Tropical Paradise.” (The verdict from my wife, who was glued to Páginas da Vida, just concluded: a Yiddish “eh,” with that trailing descent in pitch and hand held parallel to the ground, and wiggled slightly. She picked that up in Brooklyn, I guess.) Judging from the Estadão’s terse coverage — “there were acts of agression on both sides” — relatively small groups of PMs and unaffiliated parade followers seem to have been involved, at the very tail end of another otherwise planned, orderly and really fairly routine flag-waving, mediagenic lefty street-presence exercise, in a contest of teenaged hormones vs. infantile but heavily armed boneheaded truculence. Say what you like about those MST and CUT people, “undisciplined” is not a word you can generally apply to them. Or menacing, for that matter, in my experience, unless you happen to be a death squad-operating grileiro afraid of getting caught. Not that Veja did not try to imply otherwise, in its customary “The MST want to barbecue white babies!” account of the incident.

Look: I have a petista-verde wife, as well as pefelista, Toucan and Allendist in-laws, Lula-hating clown-nose and “prefer not to state” friends, an ad hoc PSOLista mother in law, and plenty of acquaintances, contacts and colleagues that are various other colors of the”build your own ideological sundae” rainbow of public opinion, or — a larger group than you would imageine — lack of giving a good goddamn regarding which.

I am personally a sort of an a la carte libertarian in the card-carrying ACLU mode, tending to the side of the current dispute there according to which the current leadership pulled some Cheneyesque non-transparent nonsense and have got to go.

Who is not in Kansas anymore, so those convictions, or lack thereof, do not necessarily apply.

Not one of us wants to see any of the others rounded up, bashed, blown up and scared shitless on national TV while strolling along prime São Paulo real estate.

Neither, I think, does the local merchants association.

Because to me, the most striking image of the whole affair, again, was those two poor, honest shop-keeping bastards, trying desperately to close the security shutters on their newsstand display windows, because ordering new glass is freaking expensive, getting “bombed with moral effect.

Is it standard procedure to fire gas-flash hybrid rounds less than a meter from individual targets? Where the explosive charge can actually rip people up with shrapnel?

Not when we would all like to see the city attract tourist jobs and more groovy travelling cultural attractions — at less usurious prices, mind you: Nota bene, Bono, the bagunça and skeevy black-marketeering your swing through town stirred up — and not have alt.commuting camelôs and Bolivian immigrants sleeping on the streets and getting set on fire by skinheads or used for target practice by death squads.

Almost nobody wants any of that.

We want a good, clean São Paulo-Corinthians — or Palmeiras — classic (and a Corinthians or Palmeiras victory over the tricolor, naturally) followed by chopp and lenga-lenga — “cheap corner-bar philosophizing,” as Cardoso likes to say — on the sidewalk cafes of one of our Pleiades of local Little Italies.

Veja sums up:

O protesto contra Bush no coração financeiro de São Paulo foi apenas um entre vários realizados em todo o país antes da chegada do presidente americano. No Rio de Janeiro, manifestantes apedrejaram o consulado dos Estados Unidos durante um ato contra a visita de Bush. No mesmo horário, uma segunda passeata, integrada por militantes do PT, do PC do B e do MST ocupou metade da pista da Avenida Rio Branco, uma das principais do centro. Salvador e Porto Alegre também foram palco de manifestações.

The protest against Bush in the financial heart of São Paulo was only one of a number of protests throughout Brazil ahead of Dubya’s arrival. In Rio, demonstrators threw stones at the U.S. consulate during a protest against Bush’s visit. At the same hour, a second march, with members of the PT, the PC do B and the MST, occupied half of the Av. Rio Branco, one of the principal downtown streets. Salvador and Porto Alegre were also the scene of demonstrations.

There were organized protests in 17 cities in all, I read from another source.

The Rio protest was conducted by “several hundred” — reportedly, but the clip has fallen into a bowl of taco sauce, so remind me later –flag-waving members of the PSOL, the small party that ran the expelled PT member, Sen. Heloisa Helena of Alagoas, for president. She polled around 9% of the vote in the first round. They also threw red paint on the consulate, other reports say.

Which is kind of a pointless gesture if your point is to actually annoy evil gringos in person, if I may say so.

Digressing for a moment.

Because if you, the evil gringo, try calling the consulate for actual consulate-type services involving being an evil gringo in a strange land — such as needing information on shots to get or rubber-stamps to petition for or how to repatriate a corpse — you will never, ever find a fellow evil gringo at home.

They are permanently out lunching with Larry Rohter, apparently.

The consulate folks seem to have outsourced their services for the expatriated taxpaying citizenry — implicit message, as that occasional redneck Customs agent will insinuate while waving you back into Miami, or Houston, or (much less frequently) Brooklyn: “You have no business venturing outside The Land of the Free, anyway, so you deserve what you got, New York photographer Brad Will” — to pleasant locals.

Pleasant locals whose only function is to tell you — repeatedly, politely, gently, a little nervously, in passable English — to go hunt through the State Dept. Web site for practical non-disinformation not involving ayahuasca or smoking mushroom clouds.

In other words, “Hey, check out our groovy Web site! And our blog, too!”

Good luck with that.

Our own evil-gringo e-government also leaves much to be desired from an information architecture and accessibility point of view.

Click through eight screens to get to a Stateside 1-800 number that Telefônica does not let you call from here.

More later.

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