Police and Thieves in the Brazilian Streets

Police and Thieves

Scaring the nation

Police and thieves in the streets
Oh yeah!
Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition

One of my favourite reggae songs is ‘Police and Thieves in the Streets’ originally by Junior Murvin but also covered by The Clash.  I haven’t heard it in ages, but it came up on the shuffle setting of my iPod and,as well as bringing a big smile to my face, it got me thinking about how the song relates to the current situation in Brazil.

There are a lot of genuine grievances that drove people on to the streets in June, and those grievances haven’t gone away.  There are perhaps a number of reasons why the protests lack their earlier ferocity:  political maneuverings; disillusion with the (right-wing?) direction the protests were heading; the end of the Confederations Cup leading to a lack of international focus on Brazil and, some would say, Brazil winning the Confederations Cup.  As we can see with the continuing demonstrations by teachers in Rio, the occupation of the city council offices in Curitiba and the re-emergence of protests against the cost of public transport in Sao Paulo.

Perhaps one of the main reasons why these current protests are not as well supported as previously, though, is the fact that they always seem to descend in violence.

Most of the current protests follow a predictable pattern.  Largely peaceful demonstrations are followed confrontation, usually between the police and the Black Bloc.  There is claim and counter-claim that it was the heavy-handed tactics of the police that instigated to violence and that associations like the Black Bloc are merely protecting demonstrators, or that the police were only reacting to the vandalism of certain protestors.

My natural inclination in all demonstrations is to disbelieve the police and take the side of the underdog.  In this case, though, I believe both and neither at the same time.

While the Black Bloc and other aggressive demonstrators might not be thieves, the effect has been the same as the words of the song.  They are both scaring the nation.

And maybe that is what they want.  The one thing neither the police nor the violent protestors want is a fully functioning, mature and stable democracy.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Or, as Mauricio Savarese from the ever excellent A Brazilian Operating in This Area put it:

“Desde junho encapuzados e policiais estão unidos para atacarem jornalistas. Encapuzados e policiais estão unidos para dizerem que sua violência é fruto de tática. Encapuzados e polciais estão unidos na impunidade. Parabens a encapuzados e policiais. A simbiose entre vocês é comovente. Que todos vocês percam.”

“Since June hooded protestors and police have been united in attacking journalists.  The hoodies and the police have been united in saying that their violence is tactical.  Hoodies and police are united in impunity.  Congratulations to the hoodies and the police.  The symbiosis between you is very moving.  May you both lose.”

Some Excellent Blogs About Brazil

If you are looking for other news and independent views about Brazil you’ll do a lot worse than checking out some of these fantastic blogs.

A Brazilian Operating in this Area

Andrew Downie’s Brazil Blog

Bossa Breezes

Lost Sambista

Mark Hillary

Rachel’s Rantings in Rio

Rio Gringa


2 thoughts on “Police and Thieves in the Brazilian Streets

    • I had only ever heard The Clash version until I saw the film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. I love the Clash version, but I think the original is even better.

      Thanks for commenting.


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