Arrests, crackdowns: Anti-World Cup activists get their message across
To be in Brazil for the World Cup should be every football fan’s dream, but as exhilarating as it is, it’s impossible for any sane supporter not to feel the competition has been tainted.
The widely publicised protests in the run-up to the World Cup meant debate not only about how the national team would play on the pitch, but also about who would win the battle for the narrative of the cup on the streets.
Protesters have been planning for the World Cup as long as the players and sponsors, but what they could not predict is how hard the authorities would crack down on demonstrations once the competition started.
The first indication came before a ball was kicked, when police arrested several high-profile activists, including film producer Elisa Frames (known as Tinkerbell), singer and actress Luiza Dreyer and several citizen journalists, in surprise raids. One defining characteristic of the protests has been how egalitarian they have been.
From favela residents to indigenous ethnic groups, the protesters have come from all walks of Brazilian life, so many feel these high-profile activists were simply being made examples of.
One activist sent me a text simply saying, “It’s started.”
“These are social activists who became popular during demonstrations over the past year, and it seems they were targeted because they became symbols of resistance and fierceness,” says Eloisa Samy, a lawyer and human rights activist from Rio. Police had arrived at her home with a warrant to seize her computer and phone. “The police did not explain what they were investigating, or who had ordered the operation: it was quite Kafkaesque.”
According to Samy, police are using a new law aimed at organised crime to hold and question individuals. “These activists are being accused of being part of a criminal organisation. The law passed last year created special procedures for crimes involving three or more people, and was aimed at organised crime, but it is now being used to criminalise, and eventually punish, protesters.”
Several journalism collectives have launched multilingual websites to cover the protests, with teams in every host city. Independent is working with a new platform called , which brings together social journalism from around the world. Another group, , has also launched new platforms, aiming to be first with news from the streets but also producing some of the most striking images of the tournament.
In Rio on Friday night, the streets of Lapa, one of the city’s liveliest nightlife spots, were packed as locals and football fans from around the world, including Ruud van Nistelrooy, celebrated Holland’s win over Spain. But even here, if you looked up, a rolling series of 10m-high anti-World Cup statements was being projected on to the tallest building by activists.
For some the focus is now wider than Brazil. “No one believes the World Cup will leave a legacy in Brazil, as Fifa claims,” says Felipe Altenfender of Mídia Ninja. “But do you know what I hope will be the real legacy of the Brazilian World Cup? That this will not happen again in other countries. The idea that Fifa can just arrive and cause carnage like this, with no concern for the ordinary people, and leave them with a bill for billions? We can’t keep letting this happen.” – The Guardian